A church in Hawkins, Texas is in an all-out legal battle with city authorities over the removal of a sign on Highway 80 that read, "Jesus welcomes you to Hawkins."
City officials removed the sign early Friday morning after a four-year legal battle with the church.
Hawkin's leaders say their problem isn't with what the sign said, but where it stood.
Jesus Christ Open Altar Church erected the banner in 2015 in front of a local coffee shop owned by the church. However, the city argues the sign was on public property and needed to be removed to make way for a future highway construction project.
The church says it bought the property from two funeral homes. However, city officials claim the funeral homes did not have the legal right to sell the property and it actually belongs to the city.
"There is no, absolutely none, religious thing going on here at all, as far as the City of Hawkins is concerned," Hawkins Mayor Tom Parkers told KLTV News. "All we're concerned with is constructing a safe entrance onto Highway 80 from Blackburn Street."
Church leaders, who say members of their congregation often stood next to the sign to guard it, believe the city is discriminating against their religious beliefs.
"The city employees destroyed our church property, pulled up our crosses and destroyed everything," Church trustee McDonald told the Longview News-Journal Friday.
"We're treating it like a hate crime of religious discrimination that was conspired by the city. We have enough documents to prove that," McDonald added. "The city was warned (Thursday) by our attorneys not to touch it and not to bother it. There's been closed meetings, closed records (and) a lot of things wrong."
The church plans to file a federal lawsuit to bring the sign back.