Atheist billboard burned (well, almost) in New Jersey. Why?

Atheist billboard: The billboard in New Jersey proclaims "Keep Saturn in Saturnalia" but someone tried to burn it down. The billboard is one atheist group's response to another sign in Pitman that says "Keep the Christ in Christmas."

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
The letter "A," which stands for Atheist or Agnostic, was erected by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation,at the annual Christmas market in Chicago's Daley Plaza. Members of the group say it's meant to send a message that they believe that religious displays on public property are a violation of the separation of church and state.

Police say someone tried to torch a billboard in New Jersey that was put up by atheists to protest a "Keep Christ in Christmas" banner.

The billboard proclaims "Keep Saturn in Saturnalia," a reference to an ancient celebration of the Roman god of agriculture. It's paid for by the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Authorities say it was torched Tuesday night by two unidentified men who fled in a pickup truck.

The sign didn't burn, but its steel support beams were charred.

The atheist group has been trying since 2011 to have a privately funded Christmas banner in Pitman removed or have one added for nonbelievers.

The foundation is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.

The NJ.com news site reports that the fight between the borough and the foundation dates back to 2011, when the foundation challenged the legality of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign that hangs over Broadway in downtown Pitman.

The foundation claimed that, through their investigation of open public records, the Knights of Columbus, a local religious organization who puts up the banner each year, did not have the proper permit to hang the sign even though it was hung on private property.

Borough Mayor Russell Johnson tells NJ.com at while he recognizes the foundation is completely within their boundaries to have the billboard stationed at the intersection, as a practicing Catholic, he still doesn’t appreciate the foundation’s attempt to challenge the Knights’ sign.

“In my elected capacity, I understand that they have the right of freedom of speech,” said Johnson. “It absolutely bothers me on a personal level as a resident. I recognize the (“Keep Christ in Christmas”) banner on Broadway.”

“But I don’t have to look at it,” added Johnson.

In Chicago, the same atheist group has erected an 8-and-a-half foot tall letter "A," which stands for Atheist or Agnostic, at the annual Christmas market in Chicago's Daley Plaza, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Chicago.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Atheist billboard burned (well, almost) in New Jersey. Why?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2013/1219/Atheist-billboard-burned-well-almost-in-New-Jersey.-Why
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe