October 28, 2009
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's "Keep Religion OUT of Government" billboard on the 2600 block of North Avenue, Grand Junction, Colo., was defaced, apparently last weekend. A vandal X'ed out the word "religion," and painted in the word "fag."
"This is the first time one of our billboards has been defaced," commented Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, of Madison, Wis.
"And we consider it a double hate crime, targeting two minorities—nonbelievers and gays. It is very sad to see our message honoring the Constitution turned into ugly hate speech."
The Foundation, a state/church watchdog with 14,000 nationwide and more than 400 members in Colorado, has placed more than 50 billboards in more than 22 states, since launching a national billboard campaign in October 2007.
This was the first time the Foundation debuted this particular message, "Keep Religion OUT of Government," on a billboard. It was intended to send a message to both city and county governments to stop praying during government meetings, in cooperation with local members and the local group, Western Colorado Freethinkers and Atheists.
"We are sure this act of vandalism does not reflect the feelings of most citizens in Grand Junction. Yet the city and county governments have sent a continuing message that citizens who believe in God, and more particularly, believe in Jesus, are the true Americans, excluding the rest of us. When religion is allied with government, there is always persecution of minorities and the unorthodox," Gaylor added.
The Foundation filed a police report. The vinyl billboard cost $500 and the month-long lease was another $500.