Local Officials Won't Praise Darwin," So FFRF Billboard Does
The bicentennial of the birthdate of science great Charles Darwin this Thursday is being honored in Grand Junction, Colo., with a billboard placed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, with help from its local members and Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers. The billboard just went up at 1713 U.S. Hwy 50 (facing south) early this week.
The year 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the release of Origin of Species, Darwin's seminal work on evolution.
The pleasing image reads: "Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief," and employs a stained-glass window motif and features the iconic image of Charles Darwin, as well as the Foundation's name and website, ffrf.org.
The Foundation, a national watchdog and the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) has 13,600 members nationwide, and 400 members in Colorado.
The Foundation has also placed billboards "praising Darwin" this month in Dayton, Tenn., and Dover, Penn., homes of the most notorious classroom battles over the teaching of evolution.
The Foundation, working with area members and the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, chose Grand Junction in part because Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers president Dr. Earle Mullen's proposal to proclaim a day to honor Darwin was not adopted by the city (the county board is issuing a proclamation).
"Charles Darwin gets a bad rap in America, and we want to counter that. It's an intellectual blot on our country that more than 50% of Americans reject evolution," said Gaylor. "The Darwin bicentennial is a chance to celebrate reality, to move our nation forward, to return to the Enlightenment. "
"The double anniversaries make 2009 a blockbuster year for promoting reason and science," adds Foundation copresident Dan Barker, author of Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.
Says Grand Junction resident Joseph Alaimo, a veterinarian, said it is too bad it is necessary to put up a billboard reminding the public of something so "patently obvious." He added: "There is no god and human beings can achieve great things without superstition."
The Foundation, on behalf of Grand Junction membership, has recently complained over the unlawful practice of denominational prayer by the Mesa County Board of Commissioners. Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote a letter urging the cessation of the prayers, with Foundation staff attorney Rebecca Kratz writing a powerful analysis of why the practice violates the law.
Denver attorney Robert R. Tiernan, on behalf of the Foundation, persuaded the County to drop a "religious test" for a marriage license last year. A couple who did not wish to swear to a god were told they could not get a marriage license, prompting the letter from Tiernan. The county sent out an e-mail to employees telling them no oath is required.
The Foundation this week is also placing a "Praise Darwin" billboard in Whitehall, Ohio, where the mayor has said America is a "Christian nation," has refused to remove a nativity display from the city hall entrance in December, and has also opposed a "Darwin Day" resolution.
"We'd love to take our pro-Darwin message around the country during this Year of Darwin, especially where the Darwin vs. Dogma debate still rages," said Gaylor. "Donations earmarked for that campaign and help locating good sites are much appreciated," she added.