After local atheists paid $50 to put up a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation in the public square in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, another local man, citing the Newtown shootings, climbed up and ripped them down. And a local TV station caught it all on film.
Several people who were working or shopping in downtown Wilkes-Barre and saw the banner told Newswatch 16 that they were offended by the group’s message.
“It’s a shame that someone has to protrude such hatred on such a beautiful holiday season, just because they don’t have the same thoughts or ideas as the majority of people who live in the area,” said Alyson Bartoloma.
Shortly before 4 p.m. on Thursday, a man who identified himself as Joe McDonald climbed about 30 feet up the sculpture, cut two wires holding one end of the banner, and left it dangling in the wind alongside an American flag that he had placed on the scaffolding.
“I just think in the light of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut, that we shouldn’t be divided as a country over petty stuff like is there a God or isn’t there a God,” said McDonald. “If they wanted to put the sign down here with us, that’s fine because we’re united. But to put it above everybody? No, it’s symbolic.”
This particular sign is the one that says religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds, which I think is a dumb sign to put up. But that doesn’t make this any less a crime. What Joe McDonald did was malicious destruction of property and he should be arrested and charged for it. I doubt he will be.
Update: In fact, four similar signs have now been vandalized or stolen, including two of them here in Michigan.
Oh, and here’s an entirely innocuous sign from a secular group in Virginia. It was spray painted and then burned.