Christian music, signs at Lincolnton tag office catch state’s attention

LINCOLNTON, N.C. — Controversy is brewing over a state license tag office after a complaint was filed against its operator.

The operator told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty he received a complaint from the state about Christian music played at the office and some military items for sale. He said on Wednesday he doesn’t plan to turn that music off, and Faherty could hear it when he walked inside the building.

Operator Matthew Craig is a veteran who served in the North Carolina Army National Guard and did two tours in Iraq. He told Faherty that part of the complaint also focused on some of the military items he sells. He said he will not “compromise his beliefs.”

Craig allowed Faherty’s camera inside the Lincolnton License Plate Agency. The tag office is a private business but is contracted out by the state to sell tags and renewals.

Craig also sells military hats and other items. In addition to playing Christian music, he has signage posted about his faith. That includes a “He Has Risen” sign at the checkout.

Craig said the state notified him of a complaint made last Thursday regarding some of those items. The North Carolina Department of Transportation told Channel 9 they received a complaint and contacted the operator about it.

Everyone Faherty has spoken to so far supports Craig.

“If they want to play gospel music, I don’t see nothing wrong with it. I like gospel music,” Sam Goodson said. “It is what it is. You’re not going to please everyone in this world.”

“They don’t want anything Christian, don’t want any mention of God. And that’s what is wrong with our nation today,” Betty Barger said.

“To me, I think the world is going to the devil instead of where it should be,” Betty Huss said.

“It was ridiculous that anyone be trying to close this office,” William McCollough said. “That’s one of the most efficient, kind, people in town.”

The NCDOT said it received a letter from Craig bout his desire to close the office and retire.

In a message, Craig told Faherty, “I believe we have found ourselves in what many see as the sum of our country’s problems.”

Faherty spoke to the mayor about the situation after he visited the office Wednesday.

“Politics should never come into play whenever it’s something like this,” Mayor Ed Hatley said. “What should come into play is do the right thing. We’ve become too polarized.”

Craig said he’ll stay open through March 14 and will play the music and sell the military hats. The state said it has already begun looking for a new operator.

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