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The Freedom From Religion Foundation is blanketing Trenton, N.J., with 19 billboards going up this week for a month, saying: "Imagine No Religion," depicting the face of a penny with the words "In Reason We Trust," warning "God & Government a Dangerous Mix" and saluting Charles Darwin in a billboard depicting his image and saying "Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief."
The Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., has more than 16,000 nonreligious members nationwide, and 340 in New Jersey, and works to keep church and state separate. Since launching a national billboard campaign in October 2007, the Foundation has placed billboards in about half the states and more than 40 cities. It placed its first billboard in New Jersey in early August in Monmouth County, but seeks more visibility with its "mini-blitz" in Trenton.
Its "In Reason We Trust" billboard is a pointed criticism of the Congressional action in 1956 which adopted a religious slogan as a johnny-come-lately motto.
"That act of Congress has greatly distorted America's secular history," says Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "And it's not even true. Over 15% of the U.S. adult population is nonreligious. To be true, the motto would have to say 'In God Some of us Trust' and wouldn't that be silly?"
"And 15% of the population is a lot of Americans to exclude and offend. Citizenship should not be tied to piety," adds Dan Barker, Foundation co-president and author of the book Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists.
The Foundation is revving up its billboard campaign at summer's end, having placed five billboards last week in New Orleans, 20 in early August in the Tampa Bay area, with plans to place 50 billboards in Atlanta and 20 billboards in Louisville after Labor Day.
New Jersey contains interesting freethought history. There are statues of Thomas Paine, fomenter of the American revolution and author of the antibiblical Age of Reason, in Morristown and Bordentown. Feminist and freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who wrote The Woman's Bible, settled in Tenafly. The Foundation's first chapter was in Morristown, N.J., and was run by FFRF cofounders Jo and Charline Kotula.
The billboard locations:
1 S/S 1906 Princeton Avenue, 150' E/O Betts Avenue Face: W
2 W/S 545 Brunswick Avenue, 10' S/O Chase Street Face: N
3 W/S 37 Chambers Street, 10' N/O Walnut Street Face: S
4 E/S 757 No. Clinton Avenue, 150' S/O Girard Avenue Face: N
5 N/S 62 Hart Avenue, 10' E/O Hurley Street Face: W
6 E/S Mulberry St, #316,50Ft 50.00 ft N/O Klag Av, Trenton Face: S
7 N/S 122 Perry Street, 200' E/O Broad Street Face: E
8 N/S 617 Princeton Avenue, 10' W/O Wayne Avenue Face: E
9 E/S Prospect Street, 75' S/O Frazier Street Face: N
10 W/S Route 1 Exit Ramp @ RR, 50' S/O Route 1 Face: N
11 S/S 17 Spring Street, 75' W/O Willow Street Face: E
12 S/S 17 Spring Street, 50' E/O Fowler Face: W
13 N/S 704 E. State Street, 25' E/O Monmouth Street Face: E
14 N/S E. State Street, 100' E/O Cuyler Avenue Face: W
15 N/S 1292 E. State Street, 10' W/O S Logan Avenue Face: E
16 E/S 54 Chestnut Avenue, 5' N/O Walnut Avenue Face: N
17 W/S 170 Hoffman Avenue, 2000' N/O Stuyvesant Avenue Face: S
18 N/S 302 Mulberry Street, 75' W/O Klag Street Face: W
19 N/S 700 E. State Street, 10' E/O Monmouth Street Face: W