- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

PORTLAND, Tenn. (AP) - An anti-gay billboard is stirring a debate over bullying and religion in a rural community about 30 miles north of Nashville.

The Tennessean (https://tnne.ws/1uI0KbV ) reports that the message reads: “You shall not lie with a man as with a woman. It is an abomination. - God.” The sign says it was “paid for by concerned Christians.”

Portland resident Ronny Monday, who helped initiate the placement of the $500-per-month billboard, said the Old Testament message was needed to balance against the message from celebrities and President Barack Obama supporting gay marriage.

“People have sat down long enough, and this country is going in the wrong direction,” Monday said.

But Shannon Lynch, who has taught religion, ethics and philosophy for 14 years, said she sees the sign as a “form of bullying” that could have negative effects on young people struggling to find their own identity.

“The Old Testament with words like smite, fire and brimstone no longer applies if you believe Jesus Christ is your savior,” she said. “They need to be educated in their own faith.”

Supporters have a right to display their message on First Amendment grounds, said Jason Vandiver-Lawrence. But he said he disapproves of “all the negativity” it has created.

“Why not spend time and money on helping people in the community and spreading a positive message?” he said.

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Information from: The Tennessean, https://www.tennessean.com

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