Officials at a post office in Pittsburg, Kansas, recently took down a "God Bless America" banner that had hung on the outside of the building following an atheist group's complaint that called its presence a violation of the separation of church and state.
It was a sign that was visible to the community for years, having been posted after the 9/11 attacks in an effort to rally the community — that is, until the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, complained and it was subsequently removed last week.
"Employees are free to ask God to bless America all they want on their own time," Madeline Ziegler of the Freedom From Religion Foundation told KOAM-TV. "The problem comes when they ask their government employer to endorse their personal religious beliefs by plastering them on the side of the federal building."
She continued, "We're really excited that the post office decided to take the right action here."
The removal made headlines, but it's what happened next that's been getting even more attention.
After the single sign was removed, frustrated residents decided to act, with more than 1,500 signs and banners popping up around town.
Jakes Fireworks, a local business, reportedly had the "God Bless America" signs printed up, and handed them out to locals. According to Twitchy, "Now residents of the town are saying you can’t drive a block without seeing a 'God Bless America' banner or American flag."
Some residents — including those who made the initial decision to post the post office banner back in 2001 out of what they said were patriotic and not religious motivations — have been speaking out over the past week against the atheist-led complaint.
"It's sad, it's sad that they feel like that this is something that they understand when they don't," said Ed Hinde, a former postal worker.
Local Jason Marietta added, "Obviously, we're among the majority that didn’t agree with the decision to take the sign down.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has said that it has no problem with the sign being posted on private property, but that its placement on government property was problematic.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Post Office said that post offices are precluded from allowing posted messages unless they are official government notices.