Atheist Sign Vandalized Less Than Two Days After Being Put Up

This was the banner near a controversial Nativity display on government property in Warren, Michigan. It was put up on Friday:

Douglas Marshall puts up the FFRF sign in Warren, Michigan (David Angell – Daily Tribune)

Sometime Saturday night, that banner was vandalized:

After a stake pole was vandalized, our banner was blowing around the median,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We urge police to investigate this tampering. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has opposed using this median strip for religious displays not only as a constitutional violation, but a traffic hazard.

“Now that the town has formally deemed it a public forum, FFRF and our area members have full right to place our display. Fanatics who would censor our speech should realize such vandalism is not only criminal, but could cause serious accidents,” Gaylor said.

No one’s confessed to the crime and no one’s been caught or punished. I’m wondering whether the police would be acting on this more quickly if the damage occurred to the Nativity Scene.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Nkendall

    How was it vandalized? Are we sure it wasn’t a zip-tie that broke? I mean we cannot jump to conclusions here… we are the skeptics after all. 

  • Levon Mkrtchyan

    To be fair, I do not think that the police would be acting any more quickly if it were a nativity scene that got vandalized.  I do think that the local citizens would be acting more quickly, however.

  • m6wg4bxw

    This reminds me of a television series show called “Bait Car.” Signs about atheism seem to be nearly irresistible to a particular type of vandal. Is it time for a bait sign?

    I have another thought. We could modify electric fencing to electrify these signs, and have hidden cameras recording would-be vandals getting zapped.

  • The Godless Monster

    Warren, MI? Of course it was vandalized. What most non-Michiganders don’t know about my lovely state is that a good number of the inhabitants in Southeast Michigan originally hail from below the Mason-Dixon line. They moved up here to work in the auto industry and have been doing so for many, many decades. They brought their love of all things fried and Jesus with them!

  • Croquet_Player

    I really liked this sign.  It has such a calm, sensible message.  Had no one thought of putting up a hidden surveillance camera?  They’re so small and inexpensive these days and it seems these signs are magnets for abuse everywhere they go up.

  • Gregory Marshall

     You could add Taylor to that list or where I grew up on the northwest side of Detroit a neighborhood called Brightmoor. I swear I was the only little kid that’s parents didn’t come from somewhere in the south.

  • Kari Lynn

    Yea… That’s why they refer to Hazel Park as “Hazeltucky.” My mom was born in Virginia and moved to Michigan so my grandpa could find work at Ford. 

  • Octoberfurst

     Of course we all realize if an atheist had vandalized a nativity scene that Christians from one end of this country to the other would be outraged. It would be the talk of the Christian blogosphere. But since it was an atheist sign that was vandalized well–they had it coming!  How dare atheists insult the baby Jesus!

  • Kerri Russ

    Of course they’d be reacting if it were the nativity scene because the Christians and Churches would be making HUGE noise about it and the media would cover it and broadcast it.  Because it was not a church or Christian sign, it’s not worthy of police or media time because somehow, we don’t deserve recognition, only scorn.

  • The Godless Monster

     I lived in Taylortucky from the age of 5 to 15. Lovely place…

  • Varen Raymond

    Only one way to test this theory. Someone go remove baby Jesus, and replace him with a Raptor.  (T-Rex may also be used.) If the police get real into it and start going crazy trying to find out who switched Jesus with a raptor, then we will know the truth about the law enforcement in the area. Though it could also be chalked up to “two scenes destroyed, so now we are actually looking.”

  • Coyotenose

     During the 2008 elections, I had a double-sided Obama/Biden sign near the edge of my front yard, made of two identical, flexible single-sided signs and a wire frame. Someone slashed the sign up severely and twisted the frame as much as they could. I taped and straightened it, and they slashed and twisted it again.

    I repaired it again, and that time I bought a small cloth U.S. flag and slid it in between the two signs.

    After the third slashing, they never showed back up.

  • Coyotenose

     It’s certainly possible, but check out the poles in the picture. They took pains to make that sign sturdy. Plus… you know the history of these things.

    Looking at those poles, I suspect that the vandal assumed they’d be able to just demolish it because they didn’t look closely during the day. Then they got balked and ran off because it was taking too long.

  • Coyotenose

     Yeah, this. Most police forces are overworked and understaffed, and it’s the holidays.

  • Coyotenose


  • m6wg4bxw

    Absolutely Brilliant. Thank you for sharing. I had a very loud, satisfying laugh.

  • Pseudonym

    I hate this sign. It is not even remotely “sensible”, by any definition of the word. It also makes unsubstantiated claims. It’s a bit like a nativity scene in that respect.

  • Anna

    I hate the sign, too, but it’s up for political reasons, not festive ones. I can’t read the tiny print on the bottom, but it would be nice if FFRF explained the purpose of the sign to the public. Not that it would stop vandalism, but at least they’d know the sign isn’t being displayed purely to insult people.

  • Deltalyrae

    I think the sign is uplifting.  It is rational, not insulting.  I think you find it is insulting because you disagree with it.  If everything you disagree with hurts your feelings, you may want to speak with a counselor, because you are going to be in for a lot of hurt feelings throughout your life.  You stated that the sign is up for political reasons.  You are just plain wrong in this case.  Do you think a manger scene or Santa at the mall is there for political reasons?  No.. Religious iconic images are displayed to reinforce a belief held by a group of people and to bring a sense of brotherhood and belonging to the members of the group who share these beliefs.  The “Let Reason Prevail”  sign does the exact same thing.  I find it comforting and uplifting to know that I am in the company of other rational, loving, naturalists who do not fear the unknown so much that they have to make up fairy tales to explain things they do not understand.  I am a registered Republican living in the Bible belt, so don’t think I do not understand why this insults you.  I just think you would be better off just learning to accept the things you do not understand and maybe you will learn something!

  • Anna

    Are you new around here? I’m well aware of their purpose. FFRF has been upfront about what they are trying to achieve with the signs:

    FFRF would vastly prefer that government buildings and seats of government be free from religion — and irreligion. It is divisive. The rotunda is getting very cluttered. But if a devotional nativity display is allowed, then there must be “room at the inn” for all points of view, including irreverency and freethought.

    It was placed last year after a religious right group put up a devotional nativity scene for the first time in the Capitol.

    The Winter Solstice sign first went up last year to counteract an inappropriate nativity scene that began appearing in the courthouse in 2009.

    FFRF’s signs and banners are meant to counteract religious displays on government property. There’s nothing unclear about that. I merely wish that they would explain it a little better, so that random people passing by have some idea of why the sign is there. Otherwise, they are going to think that FFRF went out of its way to be insulting. It’s hard to make a political point about separation of church and state if no one knows that’s what the sign is about.

    Now, I’m an atheist. I don’t like religion any more than you do, but there is nothing uplifting about the message that “religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds.” It may be true, but it’s still offensive to the vast majority of believers, and it’s hardly festive or inspiring. Let’s hope that one day there will not be a need for the harsh message, because government leaders will have finally gotten it through their heads that sectarian displays don’t belong on public property.

  • Jay McHue

    So, they’re bitching because a sign they put up with the sole intention to provoke got exactly the treatment they were aiming for.  Yes, such a fine example of “reason.”

  • Mammothman77777

    Whos Gaylord?

  • pureone

    It wasn’t put up for the intention of being vandalized any more than the nativity was. The intention of the FFRF….Oh, screw it. Go look up why you are wrong yourself…

  • Jay McHue

     I didn’t say it was put up to be vandalized.  I said it was put up to provoke.  It provoked and vandalism was one person’s reaction.  Serious, do you people have anything other than straw man arguments to offer?

  • Coyotenose

     Good job defending violent responses to political statements. Jesus you people are vile.

  • Coyotenose

     “Walking around in a miniskirt like that, she was just asking to be raped!”

    Enjoy your own argument.