FFRF placed its second “Nobody died for our ‘sins.’ Jesus Christ is a myth” banner April 11 in a city park in Streator, Ill. The replacement banner featured a postscript, “Thou shalt not steal.” FFRF’s first banner was erected April 5 and was stolen April 7.
FFRF Attorney Patrick Elliott and student intern Ryan Hettinger made the 6-hour roundtrip drive from Madison, Wis., to Streator to personally rehang the banner.
The 8-foot by 3-foot banner, which was up until mid-April, was placed on behalf of a local resident with city permission to counter a religious cross display that had sat on city property since early March. This is the fifth straight year that park-goers and passersby have been told via a prominent sign that “Jesus died for your sins.”
Last December, Elliott had written Mayor Jimme Lansford to protest a nativity scene at the same location, with a sign saying. “Unto you is born the Savior Jesus Christ the Lord,” also a recurring violation. The city responded by claiming the park was a “public forum” and other viewpoints could be offered.
“In reality, as this crime reveals, the only viewpoint that is going to be permitted in Streator is the dominant religion,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “There are tax-exempt churches throughout Streator where it is appropriate to place Christian crosses and displays. A public park is not one of them.”
FFRF offered a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator(s). The theft and vandalism to the banner’s supporting posts are classified as misdemeanors. Since FFRF’s nonreligious message was targeted, the act also qualifies as a Class 4 felony under Illinois’ hate crime law.
FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with over 18,000 nonreligious members nationwide, including nearly 700 in Illinois.