Supporters rally to keep signs up and spread the message nationwide
By AMY DAVIS
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- A grassroots effort to promote the biblical view of "Marriage God's Way" has materialized into the form of two billboards in Putnam County.
The billboards, produced by Roland Advertising of Cookeville, Tenn., depict a young man and woman along with the words: "Man + Woman = Marriage God's Way" in reference to Genesis 2:24 from the Bible. The first, located on Tennessee State Highway 111 south of Interstate 40, went up in September. A second billboard went up on I-40, westbound before Exit 290, in October.
Though the message is controversial, supporters of the sign, who have no official name for their group, say it is needed around their region and beyond. They hope news of the billboard will spread and become a nationwide effort among fellow advocates of marriage between one man and one woman.
"I just thought this billboard was a marvelous idea," said Lois Irby, one of several Cookeville-area supporters of the sign. "You hear so much about same-sex marriage on TV, and it's so readily accepted by the public. Children, unless they have some kind of religious training at home, are taught to accept it and not question it or feel that it's wrong. I think God's word needs to be inserted as often as possible to reaffirm that homosexuality is wrong. It doesn't need to be presented in a glorified light
as just an alternate lifestyle."
Another sign supporter, Kerry Duke, who also serves as dean at Tennessee Bible College in Cookeville, said the group purposely avoided a reference to "traditional marriage" in the billboard.
"The will of God -- not tradition -- is the basis for saying that marriage should be between people of the opposite sex," Duke said. "Marriage between a man and a woman is not right because it is traditional. It is traditional
because it is right."
He added, "There are two basic ways of looking at marriage. Either humans invented marriage or God created it. If marriage is a human arrangement, then a society may alter it at will or do away with it altogether. But if marriage is a divine institution, then only God has the right to say what it is and who has the moral right to be in it."
Duke and Irby are co-workers at Tennessee Bible College. Irby is also a member of the Putnam County Right to Life group. The idea for the "Marriage God's Way" billboard began several months back during a conversation at work about pro-life billboards.
"The Putnam County Right to Life group and other pro-life organizations have put up some great signs that are very encouraging to those of us who believe in the sanctity of life in the womb," Duke said. "Lois and I were talking one morning about these pro-life signs when I mentioned that it would be great to have some signs which promote marriage between a man and a woman."
And so the seed was planted that eventually led to Duke taking the idea to Roland Advertising in Cookeville.
"I had never worked with sign companies, so I was a little skeptical about a company being willing to put up a sign that takes a stand on one of the most controversial issues of our time," Duke said. "But a representative for Roland assured me that the company would be glad to develop the sign."
Dave Roland, owner of Roland Advertising, even offered to put up another billboard free of charge.
"We are glad to participate in this project because of our belief in marriage God's way," Roland said. "Our conservative values are under attack every day, and outdoor advertising is one way we can speak to the masses for very little cost. We want to make sure our messages are positive and promote the right things. We believe this message is one of them."
From that point, news of the billboard spread by word of mouth.
Duke said, "Individuals throughout this area expressed interest and pledged support. The most common response is that Bible-believing people in this area are deeply concerned. They believe it is time to take a firm stand and
make a public statement about marriage according to God."
Anyone wanting to join in the effort to keep the billboards up may do so by contacting Roland Advertising at (931)528-8100 or Kerry Duke at (931)526-2616.
Lois Irby said, "We're just hoping to spread the word to different congregations to help us. Any amount is welcome. I believe there are so many good moral people, especially here in the Bible belt, who feel that this billboard is a great thing and would want to be a part of it."
She added, "Maybe somebody driving along really needs to see that sign. Maybe they're questioning homosexuality in their life, and they don't have a religious background."
Kerry Duke said, "God has never approved of same-sex relations. When Jesus was asked about divorce, He went back to the beginning and said God created male and female for marriage (Matthew 19:4-5). Even nature shows that it is wrong (Romans 1:26-27)."
In the United States, same-sex couples can legally "marry" in several states, including Massachusetts (which was the first, in 2004), Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, plus Washington D.C., with California possibly the next in line. New York, Rhode Island and New Mexico recognize same-sex "marriages" that were legally performed elsewhere. Several other states offer civil unions or domestic partnerships, which grant all or part of the state-level rights of marriage. Thirty-one states have constitutional restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
"Our hope is that God-fearing people will be encouraged by these 'Marriage God's Way' billboards in Cookeville, Tenn.," Duke said. "On a bigger scale, we hope people from other parts of the nation who drive by these signs will go home and put up similar ones. Our dream is that it will grow into a nationwide effort."