(Salem, Virginia, December 21, 2012.) Vandals used spray paint to deface one of the four Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason billboards in the Roanoke area. The billboard at Virginia Route 419 at 1420 Lynchburg Turnpike, in Salem, facing east, originally read, “Don’t believe in God? Join the club.” But the word “Don’t” has been blacked out.
This billboard, along with the other three, was placed by the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason (Blue Ridge CoR) with $3,500.00 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), headquartered in Washington DC. The ad has only been up since Tuesday and was first announced Wednesday morning.
“This unfortunate incident shows just how necessary our message is. Prejudice against people who don’t believe in a god remains very real in America,” said Paul Hoyt, coordinator of Blue Ridge CoR.
For images of the billboard, in both its original and defaced conditions, free for media use, see the right sidebar.
United CoR has informed the billboard owner, Lamar Outdoor, of the vandalism and is arranging to have the billboard replaced. But it is leaving it to the discretion of Lamar to file a police report.
“If necessary, we will pay the cost of printing up new vinyl and have this billboard’s original message bright and clear in short order,” said Fred Edwords, national director of UnitedCoR. “Freedom of speech is worthy of everyone’s defense. For it is only when people with minority opinions are able to safely go public about their views that people of all opinions can feel secure in their rights.”
On its website at BlueRidgeCoR.org, the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason declares its purpose as “a joint outreach effort” to help the public connect with “local freethought, humanist, atheist, agnostic, rationalist” and other such groups. It is also to provide interested people “with information and a sense of community.” The coalition was officially launched December 19 when the billboards were announced.
“Now we are more committed than ever to the goal of making our presence known,” Hoyt added. “We hope this vandalism will inspire more nontheistic people in Virginia to understand how necessary it is to get organized. Only by working together will we end bigotry against philosophical and religious minorities.”
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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.
For more information contact: