For Immediate Release
(Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 19, 2012) "Don’t believe in God? You are not alone."
These words, superimposed over an image of a blue sky with clouds, appear on a 16 x 72 foot billboard just outside Fredericksburg on the west side of I-95, three miles north of Route 17. This billboard was put up in coordination with four more in Roanoke, which mark the formal launch of the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason (Blue Ridge CoR), an alliance of seven non-theistic (atheist and agnostic) groups in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Farmville and Charlottesville.
The Fredericksburg billboard is sponsored by the Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason (Fredericksburg CoR), a similar alliance of five non-theistic groups in the greater Fredericksburg area. The billboard was paid for with $5,100 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR). It will remain up through December, after which it will change location and be placed on the west side of I-95 a half mile north of Route 606 in Thornburg. It will remain there through February.
Meanwhile, the Roanoke billboards will run until the middle of January, made possible with $3,500 in funding from UnitedCoR.
This joint effort is part a coordinated nationwide program that began in 2009. From then to now, similar campaigns have been launched in 33 states and the District of Columbia. Each local campaign is sponsored by a multi-organizational coalition of non-theistic groups in the area.
"The point of our national awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of humanists, atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained Fred Edwords, national director of UnitedCoR. "Non-theists sometimes don’t realize there’s a community for them because they’re inundated with religious messages at every turn. So 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 effort. "We hope people will discover that we are a regular part of the community," added Paul Hoyt, coordinator of Blue Ridge CoR. "Non-believers and agnostics like us live all over Virginia. We’re your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers and family members. It’s about time we were as free to be open about our views as religious people are about theirs."
"We need to be visible, said Matt Jordan, media representative for Fredericksburg CoR, "because non-religious people in Virginia don’t often know many others like themselves. The billboard campaign has become a celebration of reason. Reason, civility and community are the guiding principles we live by."
As part of this campaign, Fredericksburg CoR will also march again in the Religious Freedom Day Parade on Sunday, January 13, 2013, behind a banner using their billboard’s sky-and-cloud motif. 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 campaign is the latest in a nationwide effort. There have been similar billboards, bus ads or Internet campaigns in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
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The Fredericksburg Coalition of Reason ( www.FredericksburgCoR.org ) 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 Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason ( www.BlueRidgeCoR.org ) is a resource for freethinking people, with the goal of uniting the various non-theistic groups throughout the greater Roanoke and Blue Ridge area.
The United Coalition of Reason ( www.UnitedCoR.org ) exists to raise the visibility and sense of unity among local groups in the community of reason by providing funding and expertise to help them cooperate toward common goals.
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