God don't make no junk: "Eyesores" headline riles readers in Minnesota

The Mankato Free Press is accused of using the Lord's name in vain: On January 14, it ran a story about city ordinance changes that affect highway ads, junked cars and roadside landscaping ornaments. Headlined "North Mankato cracks down on 'eyesores'," it was accompanied by a photo showing a stretch of highway dominated by a big yellow church billboard bearing the one-word header, "Jesus."

The paper received perhaps 20 phone call about it, plus a handful of letters to the editor, wrote Free Press managing editor Joe Spear. "It wasn't intentional," he added. "It's one of those things that happens when people put together 50,000 words and dozens of photographs a day and must, I say must, have it done by midnight, without exception."

Most of the responses came from angry locals, including one who surmised it "certainly wasn't a coincidence" and said it "implies that the editors and The Free Press are attacking Jesus and the Christian religion." But one letter writer approved of the mistake, stating that the billboard for a Assembly of God church in St. Peter is just the kind of "visual clutter" the city should be clamping down on. "Billboards are placed along highways for one reason: To sell us something. I don't need their help deciding what religion or product to choose. I never wanted to see that sign, or any others, along Highway 22. It is blight on the landscape and an assault to our senses -- it truly is an eyesore."

A penitent Spear concluded that "perhaps Jesus will forgive us."

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