Another Atheist Billboard is Vandalized

A billboard put up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was defaced yesterday:


FFRF is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone who has information about the vandal that could lead to the person’s arrest.

This is a hate crime directed both at the nonreligious and at gays — it’s a perversion of our message honoring a precious constitutional principle,” said Foundation Co-President, Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“The hate crime shows how important it truly is to ‘keep religion out of government’ — to keep homophobic dogma and blasphemy laws off of our civil statutes.”

It’s a disgusting crime and it occurs just a week after another billboard was defaced in Idaho.

You know, if you don’t like the message, you can get your own billboard and put up a counter-message. No one is stopping you.

But there’s no need to take down perfectly reasonable messages.

Keep religion out of politics? People can be good without god? Those are slogans even Christians ought to be agreeing with.

  • Erik

    Maybe they’re just trying to keep someone named “Fagsut” out of government. Or maybe they’re just hateful, ignorant bastards. One or the other.

  • http://godlessartist.blogspot.com/ Kilre

    The natural, knee-jerk response of insecure theists in the US: it’s teh gays.

  • Michael

    It is in no way a hate crime. There is no such thing as a hate crime. The activity is either a crime or it isn’t. The reason someone committed the crime is irrelevant, and in fact hate crime laws punish ideas rather than activities. We don’t want to outlaw ideas do we?

    This is a crime, but it is called vandalism.

    Vandalism != hate crime.

  • Angie

    I hope police find the little punks who vandalized the sign.

  • keddaw

    I agree with Michael, this is not a hate crime, hate crime legislation is anti-intellectual and promotes the idea that people ‘protected’ under hate crime legislation are different and weaker than the rest of society.

    However, the more stupid things like this are called hate crimes, the less support hate crime legislation will have in society.

    Just one point to Michael though, we do punish ideas and thoughts, if I am driving and mount the sidewalk and kill someone then the reason, or thoughts I had, for doing so make a huge difference: if I saw an inter-racial couple and was so outraged that I drove over them that’s murder (but not a hate crime!); if a bunch of kids had just ran into my path and I swerved to avoid them then that’s an accident.

  • 4oz of reason

    I kinda have to think that this is less a case of attempted supression by the fundamentalist old guard and more that a couple of bored teenagers found a sentence in which the word “fag” could be easily inserted.

  • http://arkonbey.blogspot.com Arkonbey

    Hmm. More of that Xtian love and tolerance, yes?

  • https://twitter.com/MagicallyAdept MagicallyAdept

    I knew that reversing the smoking ban would cause problems 😛

    (British joke, fag=cigarette just incase no one gets it)

  • pete

    Its annoying it happens,vandalism sucks.

    But i think it only helps with publicity in drawing even more attention to the subject which still is keep religion out of government.

    The fact that its been defaced helps prove to people, to much bigotry still exists also.

  • mkb

    I agree that this is more likely the work of bored intolerant teens than adult religious zealots. I hope that FFRF asks for community leaders to condemn the vandalism. Who does and who does not will be telling.

  • Miko

    See, this is exactly why we shouldn’t have laws against “hate crimes.” Exactly how many years do you think that you have the right to throw someone into a cage just because they committed petty vandalism?

    Incidentally, let’s consider a parallel situation. The alleged hate crime against the nonreligious consists of crossing out the word “religion” on a billboard. Suppose instead that an atheist crossed out the words “In God We Trust” on a dollar bill (which would also be considered vandalism, since it is the position of the U.S. government that it owns all of the currency and merely loans it to people for use). If caught, should they be punished for a hate crime against theists?

    How do these two situations differ? First off, in one the vandalism really is a crime whereas in the other the government is only pretending it’s a crime. Beyond that, they are exactly parallel (regarding only the religious aspect; the gay slur is not carried over in my hypothetical). When I cross out “In God We Trust,” I’m expressing the view that religion and government should be separate without intention of causing excessive fear to theists as a group. When someone crosses out “religion” in the above billboard, isn’t it equally likely that they’re merely expressing the view that religion and government shouldn’t be separate without the intention of causing excessive fear to nontheists as a group?

    Just one point to Michael though, we do punish ideas and thoughts, if I am driving and mount the sidewalk and kill someone then the reason, or thoughts I had, for doing so make a huge difference: if I saw an inter-racial couple and was so outraged that I drove over them that’s murder (but not a hate crime!); if a bunch of kids had just ran into my path and I swerved to avoid them then that’s an accident.

    No, that’s not punishing thoughts or ideas; that’s punishing intention. The fact that you intended to do it makes it more serious than if it had been an accident. The reason that you intended to do it changes nothing.

    A better hypothetical example would be a man who intentionally kills his wife because she’s been unfaithful getting a lighter sentence than a man who intentionally kills his wife because he wants the insurance money. But in this case, the problem lies with the legislation that made that happen: both of those crimes should have been punished exactly the same as well. Never forget that apparent violations of equality are always in fact mere consequences of a more serious violation of liberty.

  • Siamang

    I think calling it a hate-crime is extreme.

    This is a hate crime.

  • Miko

    I hope that FFRF asks for community leaders to condemn the vandalism. Who does and who does not will be telling.

    Not really. You don’t have to continually condemn a thing in order to be against it. Asking people to constantly reaffirm their condemnation of something just makes you look annoying. Consider Bill Donohue, for example.

  • K

    Hmm, Christians hate gays and atheists.

    I’ve never been happier to be alive! Just by existing, I’m doing my part to piss off the Religious Right! All that activism, for both separation of church and state and for GLBT rights, is just bonus points!

    Long live gay atheists!

  • Fletch

    Would it be entrapment to set cameras up on these signs to catch the vandals? 😉

  • Miko

    @Siamang: Of course it’s extreme. 99 times out of 100 that something is called a hate crime, it’s extreme. But unfortunately you don’t get to be the Crime Motive Analysis Czar and officially decide what is and isn’t a hate crime. In the real world, this is what something described as a hate crime tends to looks like. In the fantasy utopian world in which we only apply hate crime laws to situations when they’re at least arguably applicable, hate crimes don’t happen anyway.

  • jc morrison

    sick, but to be expected. . .

  • Polly

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
    We have good reason to punish intentional crimes while not punishing accidents.

    Intention means you’ll probably do it again if not stopped or if you get off scott-free, others will follow in your footsteps. You won’t prevent future accidents by locking people up – unless they are accident prone.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    The billboard just became a public awareness announcement that there is bigotry related to sexual preference as well as ignorance and disregard for our own country’s constitution.

  • Siamang

    In the real world, this is what something described as a hate crime tends to looks like.

    We should call it a hate crime because it’s an overused phrase anyway?

  • jemand

    hate crimes are a mixture of the committed crime against the particular individuals, and broader terrorism against the wider community that individual is a part of. In that sense, the additional terrorism meant to keep “those people” in line does have wider implications than a single crime against a single individual that does not reverberate throughout a community, to cause many more to have reason to be fearful.

    It’s entirely right to have hate crime legislation, just as it’s right to have legislation against terrorism that is somewhat harsher than against particular single crimes that are not meant to “send a message.”

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Kids have been doing stupid shit like this since the 1st cave painting went up at Lascaux. Neither the gays nor the atheists should take it too seriously. One should react to stupid juvenile pranks as if they were stupid juvenile pranks.

  • http://volunteer08.blogspot.com Volly

    OK, who had the bright idea to put a controversial message on a billboard at ground level? That’s one. Two, they need to take a picture of the defaced billboard, then REPOST it on another billboard high off the ground, with a message: This is what ignorance looks like.

  • Dudemang

    Hate crime laws are ridiculous to me.

    If someone beats up my gay uncle for being gay that’s a worse crime than someone beating me up for being 6 feet tall and having brown eyes? Why? Beating someone up is wrong and should be punished. Same with vandelism.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    What is the correlation between atheism and homosexuality? Christians seem to think there is… or between Satan and atheists (I love this one, makes my head hurt) I heard Glenn Beck insinuating that atheists are satanists.

  • A Mile of Bad Road

    More spoiled-bratism from privileged brats, it looks like.

    Don’t like hate crimes laws? TOO BAD. Until you’re the minority, you can shut the fuck up.

  • littlejohn

    I hope no one repairs or removes that sign. It merely proves our point about our opponents. Only a right-wing bigoted imbecile would equate atheism with homosexuality, and only a bigot would hate them both. Let this be their own petard, and our badge of courage. (Note the clever double literary allusion: Crane and Shakespeare in the sames sentence! Jebus I’m smug. I even own a hybrid.)

  • Richard Eis

    -Long live gay atheists!-

    Yay..

    Still, i say some punk with too much time on his hands…

    Is it still a hate crime if the person doing it is such a retarded f@ckwit they don’t realise how hateful and bigotted they are? hehe

  • keddaw

    @A Mile of Bad Road

    I am the in the minority that is intelligent enought to see that hate crime legislation is unequal, discriminatory and patronising.

  • http://seangill-insidemyhead.blogspot.com/ SeanG

    I was in Grand Junction CO just a month ago. I stayed overnight. There are anti-abortion billboards all over. There was even an anti-evolution/anti-Darwin board featuring the “ape to man” image we all know.

    One, knowing this about Grand Junction, I’m not surprised. But two, why is the FFRF billboard at ground level? I’m inclined to think dumb punks did it because it was an easy target. The billboards I mentioned before were all high off the ground.

  • DSimon

    Hate crime laws are there to recognize the additional threat against a community which certain crimes imply. For example, burning someone’s mailbox is just vandalism and arson. However, tearing down a black person’s mailbox and using it to construct a cross on their lawn which you then set fire to is, in addition to being vandalism and arson, an intended threat against both the owner of the mailbox and every other black person in the community.

    Hate crime laws are not punishing ideas, but rather punishing attempts to threaten members of the community.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Don’t like hate crimes laws? TOO BAD. Until you’re the minority, you can shut the fuck up

    .

    Oh no! Opposing hate crime laws is a hate crime. Oh no! I’m part of a minority of people who think hate crime laws are fairly pointless and stupid. Oh no! That means that telling me to shut the fuck up is a hate crime. Somebody arrest that man.

  • Pustulio

    A big part of the problem with “hate crime” law is the term itself. Like with “global warming” the term is a misnomer which only confuses people by focusing on the wrong issue. And like with people who say “it’s unseasonably cold this year, so much for global warming,” people who think that hate is the crime are missing the point. It comes across that charging someone with a hate crime is in fact charging them with two crimes: the violence and the hate. But that’s not the case. The increased severity of punishment is because the crime is essentially terrorism. It’s not just against the individual victim who suffered the attack, but against the group as a whole because of the threat that “you could be next.” Much like with the difference between first and second degree murder, motive and intent matter.

    And for the record this thing with the sign is not a hate crime.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    Once again there’s a blast of ignorance from commenters on this site about hate crimes. DSimon tried to make a logical explanation of why we have hate crime laws, but I don’t think that this crowd is going to hear it. Perhaps these commenters don’t ever live in fear that white supremecists will target them because they are black, or homophobes will target them because they are gay.

    DSimon said:

    Hate crime laws are not punishing ideas, but rather punishing attempts to threaten members of the community.

    That’s it, in a nutshell. I don’t understand why it is so controversial. I guess a lot of people here don’t understand how hate crime laws work. If a white man attacks a black man, that is not automatically regarded as a hate crime. The prosecutor would have to prove in court that the perpetrator was motivated by his desire to attack the victim because he was black. And as other commenters here have pointed out, motive is a major factor inside the courtroom in many different types of crimes, not just hate crimes. Motive is often a major factor when it comes time for sentencing too.

    Also, there are not “protected classes” of certain types of people in hate crime laws. Hate crime laws provide for additional penalties for victimizing a person based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. If a black person attacked a white person because the person is white, that would be a hate crime. Don’t believe me? Go read about Wisconsin V. Mitchell, the SCOTUS case that ruled that hate crime laws are constitutional. The victim in that case was white; the perpetrators charged with hate crimes, black.

  • H

    The billboard just became a public awareness announcement that there is bigotry related to sexual preference as well as ignorance and disregard for our own country’s constitution.

    Also a lack of respect for other people’s property, and disregard for the messages of Jesus: turn the other cheek, forgive trespasses, love your neighbor, judge not lest you be judged, treat others how you want to be treated…

  • http://www.CoreyMondello.com Corey Mondello

    Closet-Cases are always those who are most likely to act out this way.

  • Michael

    Motivation has always been part of crime and punishment. Killing someone accidentally is manslaughter. Killing someone on purpose is murder. In each case someone is dead, the difference is motivation. In a similar way, the difference between a hate crime and a non-hate crime is motivation.

  • Siamang

    Lost left coaster said it well.

    I’m tired of restating the obvious every time anyone on this site kneejerks with “hatecrime = thoughtcrime!!!!1!”.

    It’s sentencing penalty added on to the penalty for a property or assault crime. Based on motive. Which we do ALL THE FRIGGING TIME in American jurisprudence.

    “…but …but… but…. it’s a thoughtcrime!!!111one”

  • Siamang

    Oh no! That means that telling me to shut the fuck up is a hate crime. Somebody arrest that man.

    Being stupid should be a hate crime.

  • Brad

    I don’t see how you can possibly believe that Christians should agree with the slogan of keeping religion out of politics! To keep religion out of politics, you would have to exclude the religious from politics which would disenfranchise the majority of your country. Hardly democratic!

    Just because you believe that God doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that you should exclude those from politics who don’t share your beliefs.

  • DSimon

    Brad, you wouldn’t have to exclude the religious from politics to keep religion itself out of politics. All that “keeping religion out of politics” means is that we do things for secularly political reasons, rather than religiously political reasons. For example, if a Christian wants to propose a law requesting that the Bible be studied more heavily in school, they would have to justify it in secular terms (“The Bible is a document with significant cultural and historical relevance”) rather than religious terms (“The Bible should be studied because it is the Word of God”).

    This is necessary because the government has to be there for everybody, regardless of religious viewpoint. A religion-centered government would disenfranchise those not of the favored religion.

    And for the record, although I am an atheist, I would strongly and loudly disapprove of any law or movement to exclude religious people from politics.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Beth

    I would agree with you, DSimon. I think that religious people in government positions is all well and good, as long as they are not trying to use that religion to influence government decisions. It has to be secular, so it’s fair to everybody–religious people and non-religious people alike.

    Brad–the majority argument sucks, ok? You can’t use government to make the majority happy simply because they are the majority. The purpose of government is to represent everybody, not just the biggest group of people. Besides, think about it. The demographics of the United States are changing rapidly. Soon, white people won’t be the majority, and religious beliefs will likely change as well. I would assume, however, that when white people are no longer a majority, that you would not want to change the government to cater to whoever is the new majority?

    Also, why is religious majority so important? It always gets to me how much undue respect people get just because they are religious. Why should government cater to religious people just because they are the majority? Women are the numerical majority by a few percent, but government isn’t centered on us. The same goes for racial and other majorities. Representing only the groups that happens to have the largest number of members is undemocratic and, I would argue, unethical.

  • http://schwabby.wordpress.com Aaron

    what the hell is a “FAGSUT”?

  • I don’t collect stamps

    It looks like:
    Keep fagut of government.

  • Zadius

    I don’t think this case should be considered a hate crime. A crime was committed, and it was probably motivated by hate. But, it seems like too minor a crime to be considered a hate crime. The reason I support hate crimes legislation, in general, is because crimes committed by people who are lashing out at a group they don’t like causes people to live in fear. That is real harm, above and beyond the face-value crime. But, I honestly don’t think this minor vandalism has that same effect. I’m all for hate crimes legislation covering violent crimes, threats of violence, or major property damage, on the other hand.

  • phoo

    For those who don’t think this is a hate crime, would you view it differently if the vandalism read “Keep n*ggers out of government”?

  • VJ

    It is a hate crime. christians just don’t get it – It is a hate crime. I keep saying that hate speech is acceptable in this country – as long as christians are doing it.

  • MJ

    To Michael, who says “There is no such thing as a hate crime”.
    Well Michael, you’ve obviously never been attacked by a gang of 13 (count ’em, 13) youths, kicked to the ground, outnumbered, kicked in the head – while they shout, collectively, “Queer Cunt!”.

    No such thing as hate crime, eh?

  • keddaw

    Phoo:

    For those who don’t think this is a hate crime, would you view it differently if the vandalism read “Keep n*ggers out of government”?

    Nope, that’s not a hate crime either. Most probably it’s a bunch of young people trying to do something to shock the community.

    Even people ‘protected’ by hate crime legislation do not like it. Just look at who get special protection under law: children and the mentally disabled. Do you really want your arbitrary group added to that list? Do you want your minority to say “we are weak, feeble and vulnerable, please protect us”?

    In 100 years when the idea of racism, sexism etc. will be as stupid to them as hating left handed people to us is (big thing in the dark ages – it’s where the word sinister comes from). Yet at that time the hate crime legislation will still be on the books. People will be locked up, way in excess of what is warranted by the crime, because of who the victim is rather than what the crime is.

  • http://knowledgeisnotveryfar.blogspot.com/ Jake

    I have a hard time feeling empathy in this situation. Vandalism happens and every group is hated by at least one other group. Get over it

  • Michael

    @MJ

    You couldn’t be more wrong! I have indeed been attacked by multiple youths simply because of the color of my skin. I was stationed in Hawaii for 3 years and if you are white you are most definitely a minority. Within the first few months I was there I was jumped by a gang and was kicked and punched by 7+ people (don’t know the exact number as I was covering my head).

    They did it because they hate military members in Hawaii, especially white ones.

    Was it a hate crime? Nope. It was assault.

    It didn’t take me long to realize you don’t walk around Oahu at night if you are white.

  • DSimon

    Keddaw, when the law is obsolete, then let it be struck from the books then. Right now, it’s not.

    And, as has been pointed out above, hate crime laws are not about picking particular groups to be protected, nor of automatically adding additional punishment onto crimes against certain groups. If we’re going to discuss hate crime laws, let’s at least talk about what they actually are.

  • DSimon

    Michael, that sort of situation, where you’re unwilling to “walk around Oahu at night if you are white” due to an implicit threat, is exactly what hate crime laws are there to try and deal with! Violence targeted pointedly against members of a particular group has an additional threatening effect against all members of that group.

    As someone who has personally experienced that threat, do you disagree with the law taking special notice of it and trying to reduce it?

  • keddaw

    @DSimon

    hate crime laws are not about picking particular groups to be protected

    Erm, yes they are.

    There is no justification for hate crime legislation that makes moral or intellectual sense.

    If the crime is terrorising the community then random crime terrorises more people.

    If the crime is terrorising a small subset of the community then why are only pre-determined subsets allowed? What if I chose to attack every Sarah Conner I could find? I’d be selecting a small subset of the community and absolutely terrorising that subset but that would not be a hate crime. Where’s the logic?

    If the crime is terrorising a group that have traditionally been targets so what? How does that make the actual crime that has been committed better or worse?

    Also, and this is one of my favourites, if you are a rapist, but you’re a racist rapist and only attack white women, is that a hate crime? And if so, then it would be better for you to rape a black woman once in a while so you get a lesser sentence, how is that protecting the black community?

  • jemand

    random crime does terrorize more people, but crime is rarely if ever random. I think that the laws *should* be expanded to cover an attempt to terrorize any group. Targeting “Sarah Conners?”– a hate crime. And multiple crimes, serial rapist, serial murderer, already bumps up the sentence enormously. You aren’t going to get “off lighter” if you decide to go commit MORE assaults. Once you’re a serial murderer you already are unlikely to get out alive, so seriously, adding hate crime sentencing onto that, well, maybe you’ll get 300 years instead of 200. What’s the difference? Seriously?

  • keddaw

    jemand: it was a serial rapist, but if you lower the crime to assaults only on one race then before you’re caught you better mix it up a little as a person with violent anti-social tendencies would get a lower sentence than a racist with violent anti-social tendencies.

  • DSimon

    I agree with jemand that the Sarah Connor thing should probably qualify as a hate crime, and about making hate crime laws more about groups in general rather than specific types of groups.

    Random crimes do not express a targeted threat. What a hate crime accomplishes is to make people feel unsafe not just for being in a certain place at a certain time, but to make them feel unsafe for being who they are. In other words, it’s psychological warfare we’re talking about here.

    So, your example with the serial rapist who only targets white people, pointedly and clearly as a threat to that group: yeah, it should warrant harsher punishment, because that crime would have a terrorizing effect on white people. (Though as jemand points out, adding additional punishment onto a conviction for serial rape is mostly just a rhetorical flourish).

    There is no justification for hate crime legislation that makes moral or intellectual sense.

    That’s a very, very strong statement! Are you sure you intend it to be that strong?

    For example, I don’t believe in the supernatural, but I don’t say “There is no argument for belief in the supernatural that makes sense”. Instead I say “I haven’t yet heard an argument for the supernatural that I found convincing.” Being willing to change your mind given contrary evidence is important; pre-emptively dismissing the possibility of any such evidence isn’t very rigorous pursuit of the truth.

  • DSimon

    Regarding the whole “mix it up to reduce my sentence” strategy of the potential rapist: it’s a hate crime if it’s clearly intended as a threat against a group. Therefore, if the rapist has been raping white people and making it clear that they’re a target of this crime because they’re white, adding some additional non-white rapes won’t erase their crime.

    It’s not enough that statistically all the targets are in group X, or else every serial crime in a highly ethnically homogenous area would be a hate crime.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    Vandalism, even if you disagree with the message, is just wrong.

    Judging from the punctuation in these last few vandal efforts, I can’t tell if there is much intelligence there.

  • http://www.BlueNine.info Blue Nine

    What are religious people so afraid of?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    That’s a very, very strong statement! Are you sure you intend it to be that strong?

    Fair point, allow me to rephrase:
    I have not yet seen an argument that makes any moral or intellectual sense (to me) in favour of hate crime legislation, further, I have examples that do not fall under current or proposed hate crime legislation that fulfill every possible criteria of a ‘hate crime’ and yet would not be punished as such. I also have examples of how such legislation could actually cause semi-intelligent criminals to commit crimes against groups supposedly protected under this legislation to avoid harsher sentences. And, finally, I am intellectually, morally and constitutionally against any legislation that treats compus mentus adults differently.

    I am more than happy to hear of an argument that changes my opinion as I hate to hold wrong views.

    I noticed a couple of comments picking up on the Sarah Conner issue and saying crimes that target any specific group should be punished as hate crimes. How about someone just has a passionate dislike for one person, or one family. They beat up the kids, smash the windows, etc. Even after they get caught they come out and do it again. Is that also a hate crime?

    How many crimes do you have to commit to make it a hate crime? I have heard of someone who was giving out a real beating to someone (bad person, more prison sounds good to me) literally jumping on their head and a bystander heard them call their victim queer. He got a much longer sentence due to the fact he called his victim queer than he would have for the assault. Later turned out it wasn’t a gay-bash, they had been arguing over something earlier in the bar and that was what the fight was about. And the victim wasn’t gay. And it was a first offence.