FFRF offers reward for info on theft of banner from Chicago’s Daley Plaza

A group of men in front of a sign reading "In Reason We Trust" in Chicago

A display that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and its Windy City chapter put up to represent secular views in Chicago during Eastertime has been cut down and stolen.

The Chicago Daley Center security notified FFRF’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter that they have a video of a man walking up to the Daley Plaza display, cutting the panels from the frame, rolling them up under his arm and walking off.

FFRF is offering a $1,000 award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator. FFRF has a receipt showing the two banners cost $1,002 in 2014, which, under Illinois law, makes the criminal act a class 3 felony. Hate crime enhancement would make this a class 4 felony.

The colorful banners promote the views of the Founders in favor of separation between religion and government. One reads “In Reason We Trust” and pictures Thomas Jefferson, highlighting his famous advice to a nephew: “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” The other proclaims, “Keep State & Religion Separate,” and pictures President John Adams, who signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which assured that “the government of the United States is not in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The exhibit was installed on Wednesday, March 27, to be up for a week but was targeted just a day after.

The FFRF display is designed to balance a period of prayer and evangelism that occurs annually in Daley Plaza by a Catholic group, the Thomas More Society, which has preached in the plaza every Easter since 2011. The group’s aim, through its “Divine Mercy Project,” is to seek the “conversion of Chicago, America and the whole world.” The Thomas More Society’s Catholic shrine typically includes a large wooden Latin cross, a 9-foot banner of Jesus, and “kneelers” for people to pray. In past years, Catholic supporters have held 24-hour prayer vigils, distributed thousands of prayer cards and hosted anti-abortion rallies in front of the Jesus painting.

Rather than place such displays on church grounds where they belong, the Thomas More Society explicitly seeks to take over public property for its purposes, claiming that at Daley Plaza it encounters “militants, feminists, Satanists, radical Muslims, just about everybody.”

The FFRF has put together its Chicago Daley Center exhibit to counter such attitudes.

“We erect the display to protest a religious prayer shrine that’s placed annually on government property by a private Catholic organization during the so-called ‘Christian holy week,’” explains FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter President Steven Foulkes.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor condemns the cowardly crime of the display theft, saying it shows the intent of Christian nationalists to proclaim the supremacy of Christian adherents, censor pluralism and dissenting views and turn the almost 3-in-10 adult Americans who have no religious affiliation into second-class citizens.

(Pictured alongside the display are supporters that helped put together the display earlier this week: FFRF Metropolitan Chicago Chapter Board members Steve Foulkes, Bob Hunter and Shane Stapley.)

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national state/church watchdog with more than 40,000 nonreligious members and several chapters all over the country, including 1,100-plus members and the Metropolitan Chicago chapter in Illinois.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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