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Eleven friendly and thought-provoking billboards featuring members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its chapter, the Northern Ohio Freethought Society, are going up this week around Cleveland and Akron in a month-long campaign to introduce area atheists and agnostics to their communities.
The billboards feature the faces of local atheists, agnostics and freethinkers along with their personal freethought “testimonials.”
Marni Huebner-Tiborsky, chapter director, is pictured with her husband Mark Tiborsky on a billboard at Harvard and East 17th in East Cleveland. They note: “We are awed by nature, not the supernatural.”
Mark Tiborsky commented: “We just want to let other nonbelievers, or those on the fence about their religious belief, know they’re not alone and that the local nontheist community is both welcoming and growing.”
Artist and humanist chaplain Miguel Moore’s billboard, featuring his smiling face and his words, “Freedom comes from within, not without,” is found at Broadview and Brookdale in Parma.
“Doing good is our religion,” say Roni and Elliot Berenson of Chesterland, octogenarians who describe themselves as “Grandparents . . . Atheists.” Their billboard is at West 25th and Erin in Cleveland.
Roni Berenson is well-known in the area and nationally as an activist for social justice, world peace and secular humanist causes. She became a freethinker at age 16 after escaping the Holocaust in her native Germany.
Students with the University of Akron Secular Student Alliance are featured on two billboards in Akron. Craig Bauman, Austin Morgan and Anderson Friess note, “You are not alone” if you “question everything.” Their board is at East Exchange and Goodkirk in Akron.
Three other students, Tommy Panek, Shamari Fields and Austin Meredith, are featured on a billboard at Case and Kent Street in Akron, declaring: “We don’t believe in any gods.”
Chapter activists participating in the campaign include Sam Salerno of Lakewood, a bricklayer and an atheist who says about himself, “Not immortal, just a caring mortal.” His billboard is at West 117th and Berea Road, Lakewood.
Dave Huntsman of Peninsula, an aerospace engineer, notes on his billboard, located at Rocky River Drive and Rockland in Cleveland: “I believe in science, reason and secular values.”
“Atheism motivates my activism. The world is in OUR hands,” advises Sharon Woznicki, of Lakewood, who identifies as “Animal advocate, feminist, volunteer . . . atheist.” Sharon’s smiling image and message can be viewed at Scranton and Train Boulevard in Cleveland.
Pharmacist Eric Tawney of North Royalton identifies as “Kind. Compassionate. Good. Fair. Just. Humane. Atheist.”
A “loving family of atheists” are pictured on a lavender background with mother Joanna and her toddlers Willie and Channing. Joanna’s message? “Life is naturally beautiful and meaningful.”
The “Ladies of Northern Ohio Freethought Society” are in a group shot at East 18th and Carnegie in downtown Cleveland with a woman-affirming message: “We are united and growing in secularism.”
FFRF, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 20,000 members, including about 550 members in Ohio. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison in 2010 and has taken the personalized campaign to Columbus, Tulsa, Raleigh, Phoenix, Nashville, Portland, Spokane and Sacramento.
“Research shows that atheists and other nonbelievers are still at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to social acceptance. One of the reasons is that even though at least 20% of the population today is nonreligious in the United States, many Americans have never knowingly met an atheist,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
“This campaign introduces the Cleveland and Akron community to the atheists and skeptics in their midst. Taking a cue from the gay pride movement, our campaign invites other nonbelievers to share their views and ‘Come out of the closet.’ ”
Location of billboards and featured “models”:
- Broadview and Brookdale, Parma: Miguel Moore
- East 18th and Carnegie, Downtown: Ladies of NOFS
- Harvard and East 176th, Cleveland: Mark and Marni
- St, Clair and East 38th, Cleveland: Joanna Polisena
- St. Clair and East 200th, Cleveland/Euclid: Eric Tawney
- Scranton and Train Blvd., Cleveland: Sharon Woznicki
- West 25th and Erin, Cleveland: Roni and Elliot
- West 117th and Berea Road, Lakewood: Sam Salerno
- Rocky River Drive and Rockdale, Cleveland: Dave Huntsman
- East Exchange and Goodkirk: Akron SSA students
- Case Avenue and Kent Street., Akron: Akron SSA students