Ohio Billboard Stolen, Replaced


A billboard placed in suburban Columbus, Ohio, by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to commemorate the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth was stolen sometime after nightfall on Feb. 12, Darwin’s 200th birthday, only two days after it went up.

Clear Channel Outdoor Co. hustled to replace the vinyl sign and kindly replaced it by the last week of February.

The Foundation had placed the “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief” billboard on East Main and Fountain Lane, Columbus, on Feb. 11, in response to the refusal of the White Hall City Council to adopt a Darwin Day proclamation proposed by city council representative Jacqueline Thompson.

The Foundation has been tangling with Whitehall Mayor John Wolfe over the city’s unlawful Christian display every December. The mayor had dismissed state/church critics as “atheists, antagonists and a minority,” and in public comments had proclaimed that the United States is a “Christian nation.”

“Can you imagine him dismissing charges of racial discrimination by the city because, ‘They’re blacks, they’re antagonists and they’re a minority’? Or, ‘They’re Jews, they’re antagonists, and they’re a minority’? The mayor’s intolerant remarks prove the harm of uniting religion and government, which invariably invites persecution of dissenters,” said Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The Darwin billboard in part recognizes the enduring and scientific accomplishments of a brilliant man,” noted Foundation member David Russell, an area state/church separation activist who first complained about Whitehall’s nativity display.

“Darwin not only researched extensively how life evolved through succession, but his work helped shape the modern interpretation of evolutionary theory. He almost single-handedly took the world from blind faith of unproven dogma to an enduring theory that has withstood 150 years of scrutiny.

“The placement of the billboard in Whitehall is especially appropriate since some members of Whitehall city government seem intent on mixing religion and government. The large Christian-only display on the steps of city hall each December serves to remind us that we must be ever-vigilant of the unfortunate mixing of religion and government. Neither is served when religion is given special treatment,” Russell added.

“It appears the mayor’s attitude has encouraged a license against free speech and free thought,” said Gaylor. “It took a lot of gall–and a very long ladder–in order for a lawbreaker to climb up and rip off our fully-illuminated banner,” she noted.

Freedom From Religion Foundation