For immediate release
(Fredericksburg, Virginia, January 4, 2012) "Don’t believe in God? You are not alone."
These words, superimposed over an image of a blue sky and clouds, are slated to appear today on a prominent billboard in Fredericksburg. It is located on the west side of I-95, three miles north of Route 17. The ad will be visible on the right hand side of the road to southbound traffic approaching the city. The 16′ x 72′ billboard is illuminated at night and will remain up all month. This ad is being placed by the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason (Fredericksburg CoR) with $7,200 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR).
The billboard campaign marks the public launch of Fredericksburg CoR, which is an alliance of five area non-theistic groups, with activities ranging from support to education to parenting. As part of its launch, Fredericksburg CoR will also march in the Religious Freedom Day Parade this coming Sunday, January 8, behind a banner designed after the billboard. The parade begins at 1:30 PM at the Fredericksburg train station and ends at the Thomas Jefferson Religious Freedom Monument, where a ceremony will be held.
This Fredericksburg campaign is the latest in a nationwide effort. Since the spring of 2009 there have been similar billboards, as well as bus ad campaigns, in 27 states and the District of Columbia. The states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington and West Virginia. Fredericksburg’s billboard will be the first of this type in Virginia.
"The point of our ongoing nationwide awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason. "Such non-theists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. We hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone."
Reaching out to the like-minded isn’t the only goal of the coalition: "We hope people will realize that we are a regular part of the community," said Matthew Jordan, spokesperson for Fredericksburg CoR. "Folks like us live all over Virginia. We’re your friends and family, neighbors and coworkers. We might even be sitting near you in your pew at church."
"Being visible is important to us," Edwords concluded, "because, in our society, atheists and agnostics often don’t know many people like themselves. Moreover, if traditionally religious people can be open about their views, why can’t we be open about ours?"
For high-res images of the billboard, free for media use, see the right sidebar.
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The Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason is made up of secular humanist and skeptic groups working together to foster a sense of community among the like minded and raise public awareness that people who don’t believe in a god or gods can be decent citizens who contribute to the larger society.
The United Coalition of Reason is made up of over 50 local coalitions nationwide and works to raise the visibility and sense of unity among non-theistic groups.
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