Atheist Banner in Warren, Michigan: First Vandalized, Now Stolen

Last Friday, local FFRF members put up this banner near a controversial Nativity display on government property in Warren, Michigan.

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

Two days later, 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.

Yesterday, it was outright stolen:

The Foundation is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the responsible party or parties, said Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“‘Thou shalt not steal’ is one of the tenets that people who typically oppose FFRF supposedly live by,” Gaylor said. “I guess it’s all part of the war on reason.”

The banner is valued at more than $100. The Foundation is replacing it with another.

A police report was filed. But, unlike what happened in Pennsylvania, no one has confessed yet.

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.

  • Keith Roragen

    A thousand dollar reward for a hundred dollar banner? Just make ten more banners.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-Scoggin/100000044792747 Aaron Scoggin

      Yeah, really. It’s like posting a 5,000$ reward for the arrest of someone who robbed a store of 200$. Hell, when we catch a thief, why don’t we just ask them to put it back and be on their way?

      /sarcasm

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger?feature=mhee GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      I really *like* the idea of a $1,000 reward.

      Let’s see who will turn on the culprit. If I had a neighbor or brother-in-law, etc., who was being an jerk and breaking the law and I was offered $1,000 to turn him in, then… Ka-ching!

      Also, assuming someone was caught and there was actual evidence, once it gets inside a courtroom it would be difficult (although not impossible) for a judge to dismiss it and say that stealing is ok.

      • Michael

        Oh, for a ChipIn widget right now.

        I so would.

      • Keith Roragen

        I would turn myself in for $1000. It’s petty theft. The culprit is unlikely to get more than a slap on the wrist.

        • coyotenose

          Oh god no, don’t give them ideas. I can see someone doing this very thing to earn street cred with other theists. “Look, I took $1000 from those Satanists!”

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw m6wg4bxw

      They are willing to pay $1,000 for justice; not the $100 sign.

  • thompjs

    I think it is great they get stolen and defaced. Shows everyone the “Transformative power of Christ” We should use media to point that out

    • BlazeL

      Vandalization of these signs is great publicity indeed.
      So there is a good chance an atheist did it…it a “two for one”; you get publicity and get to blame “Christians”.

      • thompjs

        Wow, I never thought of that! I’ll tear down the next one I see!

      • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

        Yes, a “good” chance. Whatever the fuck that means, beyond your own biased wishful thinking.

      • coyotenose

        Your paranoia and bigotry are not arguments for anything except your lack of credibility. And yes, assuming the worst of a group to the point of claiming they’re sabotaging themselves to get sympathy rights quite well into the definition of bigotry.

        Enjoy, Bigot. Jesus must be proud of you.

        • coyotenose

          *fits quite well

          Argh, cannot brain and type at the same time.

        • Steinmaster

          Oh, and blaming “Christians” with no proof is not bigotry.
          No sir.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Only if you consider the chance in terms of potential means and motive, rather than (say) a Baysian prior rate suggested by historical rates of such vandalism being traced back to atheists rather than Christians… which suggests the probability is non-zero, but rather low.

      • bernardaB

        Xians and Fux News are probably kicking themselves for not thinking of defacing nativity scenes and blaming it on the atheists. It would be good for ratings on the war on xmas. Maybe next year.

      • Ron Larham

        Since your understanding of chance may diverge significantly from that of many of your readers please supply your definition, and references so we can check your sources.

    • Rwlawoffice

      So those who claim to only rely on evidence, where s the evidence that this was done by a Christian? Or is that rule lifted when you want to blame Christians?

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Well, I suppose we can start looking into the historical evidence that such defacing of religious messages are more often done by those for whom the religious message diverges from their religious views. (All the way back to Judges 6:25-32, if you want chapter and verse.) This appears to hold true for messages from atheists as well. Given that in the historical sample “false flag” operations exist but are relatively rare compared to “true flag” operations, this evidence supports a Bayesian inference in probabilistic expectation (though not certainty) that the thief was religiously devout.

        That it’s a Christian again seems more likely, as most of the devout in the US are Christian; however, Google suggests there may be a non-trivial Islamic element to the Warren area, so that’s another possibility. While US Muslims seem to tend marginally more devout/observant in their religion than US Christians overall do in theirs, the distribution (depending on exact measure) isn’t that different, and Muslims are almost certainly significantly outnumbered in that area. In so far as the banner is most directly competing with the Christian holiday display rather than a Muslim one historically suggests again that the Christians would be more expected to be the ones to take offense significant enough to transgress against the norms against theft from US law… and their own religious prohibitions.

        • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.d.gossett.1 Daniel Diggle Gossett

          Your response made me puke a rainbow.

          • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

            You might want to see a doctor about that.

      • coyotenose

        Weird how you’re only ultraskeptical when you think it will score you persecution points. It’s almost as if you’re too stupid to grasp documented history and draw connections. Or too dishonest. Take your pick.

        By the way, how’s that “indoctrinating children to hate gays and contraception, thus being responsible for a culture that wants to murder gays and can’t slow its AIDS epidemic” thing coming along for you?

        • Rwlawoffice

          Your logic historical connection proves crime . So because white men have commented crimes in the past all crime must be committed by white men.

          What is really nice to see is all these atheists willing to believe in something for which they have no evidence.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            So because white men have commented crimes in the past all crime must be committed by white men.

            That isn’t what’s being said. The point is that signs like this have typically been vandalized by Christians, from what information we have, and so an inference that the culprit here is likely a Christian is justified. Try to represent arguments fairly for once.

            • Rwlawoffice

              That is not what is being said. The argument is that Christians did it because of history. If it said that it is possible because of history that would be the argument you are making.

              • 3lemenope

                Not “possible”. Probable. The claim is stronger than mere possibility, but less strong than certainty.

              • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

                If you actually think that’s the argument, intellectual honesty is out the window. Re-read abb3w’s post, which includes words and phrases like “probabilistic,” “more likely,” “more expected,” etc.

                • Rwlawoffice

                  Read thompjs argument which I originally commented on and see where the word probable appears. Same with coyotense. It is true that abb3 w talks in terms if probably.

          • piet puk

            Don’t worry, we are not so dumb that we base our morals on it.
            And we are willing to change our mind when confronted with evidence showing otherwise.

            • Rwlawoffice

              So what do you base it on?

              • piet puk

                That question has been answered a million times over and over again. I’m not falling for your bait.

      • The Godless Monster

        Huge Muslim population in the area. I should know, I’m Arab American and from the area, so there is a possibility that it could be a Muslim. However, they really don’t have a horse in this race as it is a holiday sign that coincides with the Christmas/Solstice holiday. Large Jewish population in Oakland county, but not so much in Macomb county, which is where Warren is located. I’m going to have to go with Christians on this one, friend. Of course, there is no proof (yet), but if I were a betting man I’d bet everything on it being a Christian. If you knew the area as I do, I’m sure you’d agree.
        Does it mean all Christians are duplicitous jerks? Of course not, and I don’t believe anyone here is implying that.

  • http://drzach.net Zachary Moore

    Drove past there two days ago, and it was gone. Figured someone had pinched it.

  • Guest

    Can we start a war on reason? I know as non-theists we’re a pretty underfunded bunch, so It’ll have less of a polish to it than FOX Spews but it may be good for a laugh, even a useful campaign.

  • fargofan

    If they disagree, they should use their own free speech to defend their views. The answer is more free speech, not censorship. This just makes them look insecure. Their God spoke the universe into existence but is threatened by a banner? Or is their own faith that weak?

    • observer

      I’m going to go with weak faith. So weak, I wouldn’t be surprised they’re closeted athiests.

  • atoswald

    Why did the FFRF put a banner up in the median if they opposed using it for such purposes because it was a traffic hazard? And why pay a $1000 reward for a $100 dollar banner? As Keith Roragen mentioned, just make 10 more banners.

    • Santiago

      I was surprised about the median thing too. Maybe I don’t have all the facts. I am OK with the reward, though.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Because the FRFF may perceive some social value to seeing criminals discouraged by the judicial process?

    • Steinmaster

      Because things happened exactly as they intended, thats why.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dale.moore.739 Dale Moore

        hmm so conspiracy please provide evidence to the claim this was part of the groups plan.

        • Steinmaster

          If you can make assertions so can I.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dale.moore.739 Dale Moore

          I have made no assertions without evidence. So address it or admit your claim is no more founded then an alien conspiracy claim

  • BlazeL

    Actually, the banner makes a claim…”There is only our natural world.” As such, this assume some burden of proof.

    • guestyatheist

      Yep and so far no evidence counters our claim

      • Steinmaster

        No one needs to “counter the claim”. The claim is made, it needs to be supported.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dale.moore.739 Dale Moore

          This is guestyAtheist my labtop doesnt have me signed in so had to do it the quick way . Lets see proof of a non bible slash non god. Genetic bugs that make Microsoft look good. A clear line of evolution between the early primates and Human. This in particular the hands and eye placement. A tail bone and apendix. Genetic similarity. Observe kids on the monkey bars and you can see how well the arm and shoulder and hand work for swinging through trees even through we have evolved feet to allow us to run and walk we have not lost all the ancient traits from our common ancestral species.

          The fact everything works without a creator aka we can explain the majority of things without a creator and because that list of explained things grows we apply Occam Razor which is the answer with the least asumptions is probably right. This leads to no god.

          Also the whole of knowledge of Earths past and the formation of the universe counters the bible which is the supposed word of god. No noahs flood , no adam and eve (because evolution works in such a way there was never just two of a species ( not to mention biology). The story of jesus is not confirmed by Roman or Jewish records of the times.

          Do I really need to go on Evolution is the most correct explanation and makes the most sense while the idea of a god driven biology leads to all sorts of questions.

          • Steinmaster

            You can’t even explain the origin of the universe, or life. So your claim that it is a fact that “everything works without a creator” is just another assertion used to support the intitial assertion.
            As for the Roman Records or Jewish records of the times, we do not have the complete Roman Records or Jewish records of the times.
            Not even close.
            No need for more…
            You demonstration fails.

            • http://www.facebook.com/dale.moore.739 Dale Moore

              I will address the records first. Its very convenient that no record indicates the events described in the bible of Jesus life. A few points mistranslation Mary was not a virgin the Hebrew word is misinterpreted it actually means a woman of marriageable age. Next all records indicate no Roman in his right mind would hold a census and then have people travel to a place. So that part of the birth story is wrong. A prominent Jew who chronicled the history of the man who ordered the death of the children in the bible story doesn’t mention it and at that time it would of been a horrible crime one even the Romans would of bulked at.

              Also the whole claim you make is a fallacy called lord of the gaps you claim because we don’t know something that your claim is there by proven.

              Every day those gaps shrink and this leads to the conclusion in time we can explain those gaps . Currently several ideas and hypothesis exist explaining the formation of the universe We are sure it begun as a singularity and some hypothesis like M seem to provide a non god mechanism (keep in mind no evidence provides proof of a creator making any claims for a creator a belief like ghosts and nothing more.)

              I love how you toss all the evidence with a logical fallacy so now that you claim my lack of origin explanation is good enough to toss all the evidence I ask you to presence direct evidence to your claim of a god

              When you fail to meet my request I look forward to you reminding yourself that your claim is a belief while mine is a theory with libraries worth of evidence supporting it.

            • http://www.facebook.com/dale.moore.739 Dale Moore

              and it goes quiet as it realizes it failed

    • coyotenose

      The burden of proof falls on those who claim invisible forces exist. It’s unsurprising that a theist would be prone to twisting how words work.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Actually, the burden of proof would seem to first fall on those who claim a burden of proof exists. Granted, that’s a tedious exercise….

        • coyotenose

          Ahem: Pbbbt! :P

      • Steinmaster

        No one claimed invisible forces exist…although many forces are in fact invisible (which you apparently equate with supernatural).
        The claim was made that there is only our natural world.
        Demonstrate…
        And show your work…

  • Barbara

    That really is too bad about the banner. I tried to find an article about the stealing from one of the local newspapers here, but (not surprisingly) came up empty. And worse, I came across an article about the legal fight going on with the giant cross on Frankenmuth’s city property. (http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121222/METRO/212220339/1041/lifestyle04/Frankenmuth-fights-effort-remove-cross-from-city-park)

    The comments from the so-called atheists who see nothing wrong with the cross really tick me off. They look at it as a harmless historical object. Well, gee, when we allow religious objects to continue being on public property, then naturally they become more historical as the years go by. And that’s the reason why we need to nip crap like this in the bud NOW. Impressionable children shouldn’t grow up thinking that the U.S. government endorses Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joe.zamecki.7 Joe Zamecki

    This is a good reason to get two banners made, not just one. And replace it as fast as humanly possible. In case the guilty party returns to the scene of the crime, which they often do, they’ll see an identical banner there, and wonder if their theft was just a dream. lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/M.Grace.Greer.Ralstin Grace M. Greer-Ralstin

    What a splendid sign. Next year we shall use vista print and order it in bulk.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    I drove by one of the signs in VA yesterday and someone had definitely attempted to rip it down. For a sign that is out in the middle of a nowhere field on I-95 they really had to plan that one. It made me furious. Then about 30 miles down the road I was faced with a Creation Museum billboard with a dinosaur.

  • guestpest

    A $1k reward? Why don’t they just set up a hidden camera nearby, the way retailers do?


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