Atheist Billboard Vandalized Near Roanoke, Virginia

It just went up a couple of days ago!

That billboard, one of four put up by the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason in the Roanoke, Virginia area, has already been vandalized. (This one’s in the city of Salem.)

Someone spraypainted over the word “Don’t”:

(Image via

“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.

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.”

Hopefully, Lamar Outdoor will pay for the cost of the replacement. There’s no reason the Blue Ridge CoR should have to pay for property someone else damaged. If they have to do it, though, a church willing to step up and fundraise for them would be offering up a huge gesture of goodwill…

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.

  • Bill Haines

    Fat chance of that in our part of the country. :( But maybe the vandalism will backfire by attracting more notice and media attention to the boards, and so make more people aware of our local groups. :)

  • felkami

    This is near me, and unfortunately its absolutely no surprise. Bigotry is alive and well in these hills.

  • James Smith

    We must understand, Freedom of speech, to theists, applies only to them. Everyone else should “Just shut up.” This is because their “faith” is so weak and baseless that it cannot withstand the least amount of criticism or questioning. That’s why it must be protected from any of that.

  • G Wiz

    Someone should go up and paint ‘Religious Censorship’ with an arrow pointing to the painted over ‘Don’t’

  • G Wiz

    Or change club to cult….

  • Jason Looney

    Glad to see those billboards in my neck of the woods. Unfortunately living in the “bible belt” means being surrounded by a lot of irrationality.

  • m6wg4bxw

    Dave Silverman: “There’s a lot of familial and social pressure that keeps atheists in the closet, and we at American Atheists are trying to relieve that pressure.”

    Sean Hannity: “You are too full of yourself to believe that people care.”

  • me

    I live half an hour from salem. This makes me so sad and angry. :(

  • fredwords

    Yep, that’s exactly what happens. Pushback always gives us more media attention. Recently in Chico, California, our defaced billboard there created triple the impact, with more new people flocking to the local groups there.

  • Matt Bowyer

    That didn’t take long. I’m surprised it didn’t happen even sooner.

  • Gus Snarp

    Why do they keep getting these ground level billboards?

  • Gus Snarp

    Oh, so is getting billboards that are basically at ground level a strategy?

  • Rich Wilson

    Why are so many Christians so terrified to hear that other people don’t believe in God?

  • anniewhoo

    I see billboards all the time that share a sentiment I do not agree with. It would never, however, cross my mind to vandalize the sign in any way. These acts of vandalism are far more than simple disagreement. Is it hatred? Fear? Inability to see the world through another point of view?

  • Ray

    Because deep down they know we are right but their indoctrination has them so scared they fight to not think about it.

  • sil-chan

    Someone should spray paint over the club and write cult.

  • Katwise

    Agreed. When I first saw the photo of the vandalized sign, I laughed because I thought it said, “believe in God? Join the cult.

  • fredwords

    Nope, not a strategy. Prior to the two recent holiday incidents (California and Virginia) we hadn’t had vandalism in over a year and a half. And we’ve used many of the smaller billboards (called “posters”) during that time, some of which happen to be closer to the ground than the “interstate” size. We aren’t, by the way, able to directly inspect all billboard locations prior to our selection of them and therefore we don’t always know how close to the ground they might happen to be.

  • Don Gwinn

    You know, a $50 game/trail camera strapped to that post, facing the sign, would record photos or video of anyone who moved in front of the sign. If you didn’t publicize it, it’d be hard to spot–they’re pretty small and unobtrusive.
    I really think that if the locals around here ever want to put up an outdoor display that might be a target for vandals, I’ll donate one to the cause.

    It won’t stop anyone, and you wouldn’t want to be (or appear) vindictive in going after the person who committed the vandalism, but you could certainly pursue legal options and probably end up generating more coverage in the process.

  • Anna

    If they have to do it, though, a church willing to step up and fundraise for them would be offering up a huge gesture of goodwill.

    Out of curiosity, has a church ever offered to help replace one of the vandalized billboards?

  • Bubba Tarandfeathered

    Because they feel like we’ve broken some form of social contract with them.

  • cerulean

    one could get back by crossing out club and writing in cult

  • Good and Godless

    They did not use blue paint – indicating an intent or even threat to stop sending this message out. Because if they wanted to stifle the message, using blue paint would have been the choice to make.

  • Joe Zamecki

    Many religious people are angry at us because we don’t have that thing on our backs that they have, and can’t get rid of. We are free of a menace that they feel locked into. Not only that, many of them actually realize that we’re talking about a handicap, and not an advantage. But even they can change, given time and the freedom to do so. For now, their beliefs are about winning, and not honesty. So some of them bust out and do things like this. I admire their bravery, but not this method. Eventually one of them is going to get caught in the act, and their god won’t step in on their behalf.

  • DougI

    Fundies can’t deal with competition because they know that in a fair forum Atheism would easily win against their superstitions. Every act of vandalism is the religious admitting they are on the losing end.

  • SphericalBunny

    Wha? I don’t understand your post….so, defacing a message is not intended to stifle (intent or threat to stop the message) a message? Did you think this comment through, or, if you did, are you living in the newly legalised states of Colorado/Washington?
    O.Ma.Gerd…is it a theist conspiracy for us to not use our brains good?

  • Drew M.

    Someone needs to go cross out “club” and replace it with “cult” before it gets replaced.

    EDIT: Beaten to it!

  • Anna

    I think it’s shock and outrage that anyone would dare to question the truth of something they believe is not only real, but sacred. Our entire culture promotes the idea that believing in a god is moral and good and pretty much required in order to be considered an upstanding citizen.

  • Good and Godless

    Blue paint would have made the covering of the word “Dont” blend into the clouds – effectively claiming the messages as their own. By using black paint – the result was not to covertly claim the message, but to overtly notified everyone that a message contrary to their own would be obliterated.

    Thus the threat was clear to me.

  • Docwho524

    As an Atheist in Roanoke,Va., I was happy to hear about these billboards going up. I didn’t even think that one would get vandalized; I guess it’s not a huge surprise though. It’s funny, there’s a house not far from where I work covered in lights with santa and reindeer on the lawn and on the roof JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON. There was also a billboard saying the same thing not far from there. When Christians do it, it’s free speech but when an atheist does it’s wrong and offensive.

  • rockyabq

    Even defaced, the message is still valid: If you’re a believer, the Blue Ridge CoR can help!

  • Good and Godless

    I know there is no god. It is not a belittle-able “belief”.

  • Anna

    I always find it funny to see secular decorations right next to a nativity scene! If these people really believe the story is true, I can’t think why they’d juxtapose baby Jesus with Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty.

  • Somebody

    It’s hard to see how you could make the bilboard any less offensive. The fact it still gets vandalised just shows that some people don’t want atheists to be able to say anything at all.