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Billboards, Bumper Sticker Upset Some Gainesville Residents

July 9, 1986

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A fundamentalist Christian campaign of billboards and bumper stickers proclaiming ″Jesus Is Lord Over Gainesville″ is antagonizing many residents in this university city.

″It serves to remind us that we are different,″ said David Greenspoon, a University of Florida religion student who is Jewish. ″It sort of alienates us. I feel it denies a lot of other people of different religions and philosophies some sort of validity.″

The Rev. Arnold Lastinger of the First Assembly of God said members of his church and other churches and members of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship contributed to the campaign, but that no one group sponsored it.

Members of the Gainesville Interfaith Lay Council, which was created to promote unity among people of different faiths, asked for a meeting with Lastinger to discuss the campaign.

″We are convinced that they (campaign backers) did not intend ill will toward anyone,″ said lay council member Fred Gregory, a University of Florida history professor who would like to see the campaign stopped.

Lastinger said he would be willing to meet with the council, but said he did not have the authority to stop the campaign.

″I’m very sorry that anyone takes offense at it. The thing was never intended to create ill will,″ said Lastinger, adding that he had received only one negative letter.

″One lady wrote ... and she was a practicing witch,″ he said.

″It’s tacky. I think it is in poor taste. ... I don’t expect to see that in Gainesville,″ Dora Friedman, wife of Rabbi Gerry Friedman, said of the campaign.

″I certainly do think it’s a varied community. If that’s the way they believe, that’s fine. But I don’t think they should put it in a public place. ... It’s not as though they took a vote. You know what I’m saying,″ she said.

Barry Mesch, a UF religion professor, said the fundamentalists are exercising their constitutional rights of free speech.

″My problem had nothing to do with the legality of it. ... It’s sort of a public affirmation of something I don’t believe in. ... It’s so exclusionary,″ he said.