A billboard whose purpose was to introduce Portlanders to their “friendly neighborhood atheists” was defaced recently. The billboard is located on Highway 99E at Ross Island Bridge, Portland, Ore.
The billboard features the genial image of Mark Hecate, who is an I.T. director for a local nonprofit, New Avenues for Youth, which works to empower homeless youth to exit street life. The billboard says “This is what an atheist looks like.” It is one of 15 placed in mid-October by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, all involving Portland-area freethinkers, including married couples and families.
“We learned about the defacement from someone in Portland who called it ‘fundamentalist humor,’ ” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “But here is someone helping others who is being demonized for being an atheist.”
“It reveals how nonbelievers are still stigmatized, even in a community like Portland, where statistics show that a quarter of the population identifies as nonreligious. Even in Portland, it takes courage to come out of the secular closet, because who knows how people will react?”
Another Portland resident contacted FFRF to say that the vandalism of these “nice billboards” made him want to “turn to folks around me and say, ‘Hey, I’m with that guy!’ ”
View the entire set of billboards featuring Portland nonbelievers here.