A Second Atheist Billboard Vandalized Near Roanoke, Virginia

Four billboards went up in the Roanoke, Virginia more than a week ago, sponsored by the Blue Ridge Coalition of Reason

One of them, in the city of Salem, was vandalized a couple of days after it went up when someone spraypainted over the word “Don’t”:

That billboard has since been replaced.

Now, a second billboard has been vandalized. This time, the vandal put duct tape over selected letters in the word “Don’t” so that the message now says “Do believe in God? Join the club”:

Once again we are sadly reminded of how necessary our message is,” said Paul Hoyt, coordinator of Blue Ridge CoR. “While atheists haven’t been known to vandalize religious billboards, there are a number of cases of atheist billboards getting vandalized for obvious religious reasons. And now this is being done, of all times, when both atheists and religious people are celebrating the holiday season.”

United Coalition of Reason is in contact with Lamar Outdoors about getting the billboards replaced. No church has stepped up to help cover the cost of the replacement signs.

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.

  • http://www.chickhammer.com/ Ashley

    Saw a similar sign today along I95 in Fredericksburg, VA (by Fredericksburg COR, I believe) that looked like it had been vandalized as well. What a shame.

    • Bill Haines

      That would make four incidents of vandalism and one of arson, in less than two weeks, on some deliberately inoffensive signage intended solely to let people know there are humanists and other godless types in the area. I’m starting to wonder if someone’s actually coordinating this??

      • http://www.chickhammer.com/ Ashley

        Fredericksburg and Roanoke aren’t exactly neighboring cities (3+ hours apart), so I doubt it’s a coordinated effort. There’s just plenty of bigoted people to go around, I suppose.

    • fredwords

      The Fredericksburg board seems to have suffered wind damage and is being taken care of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

    This is why we need all the different types of billboards up. Just existing is offensive to some theists. They need to know atheists will not be quiet or go away.

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

      We may also need to be strategic about what the billboards say and how they phrase it. Some phrases may prompt vandalism more (e.g., if someone thinks they are being clever to just cross out the word “not” before believe).

      Unless the strategy is that vandalism leads to more publicity, which may be a good goal if it is played well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

        You give the vandals too much credit. They are offended by the existence of atheists.

        They are driven by the words of their pastors and religious pundits.

        Aside from making it so arcane that they don’t understand it, which would defeat the purpose in my opinion, changing the wording won’t accomplish much.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Actually I think we need a new strategy. “We” have tried pushing the inoffensive boundary to see just how small we can be, and they still vandalize them. I think we need one that presumes the vandalism. Unfortunately I’m coming up short on actual verbiage. “Go ahead, cast stones at this sign. We’ll turn the other cheek.”?

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

        i like that. a stone-proof sign/theme might be just the thing.

        “show your xtian love by defacing this sign. because you don’t have enough “faith” to deal with the fact that there are other people in this world with a different belief, let alone those who have none. Jeebus would be proud of you! after all, he said, “cast the first stone…”

        • linda

          im with you we got to stand for GOD be do it in a godly way

      • fredwords

        A bit more low-key approach to vandalism, in case one wants to consider it, is to pay a little extra for specially-treated vinyl that allows the spray paint to just be wiped off the next day!

      • DavidLuce

        “Keep your hands in your pockets and pray this message away.”

  • touchofgrey

    I used to live in that area. Nothing but ignorant, narrow-minded bigots (thanks to Jerry Falwell). Sorry this happened.

    • Bill Haines

      Falwell’s “Liberty” “University” in Lynchburg serves as motivation, I think: the organizer for the Lynchburg Humanists is the one who got these signs set up. ;)

  • Bryan

    Next time a billboard goes up, can somebody PLEASE put a camera up? I mean, it happens to all the billboards atheists put up, why can’t we catch them, or would that be entrapment?

    • Erik Harris

      Seriously, this seems like such an obvious solution. Cameras are used to catch criminals in all sorts of places, why not use them for billboards that are regularly vandalized?

    • newavocation

      Agreed! It would make for good youtube videos showing religious folks at their best.

    • Bill Haines

      It wouldn’t be entrapment, but it would be difficult to do. These are along highways, it’s not like there are enclosed spots facing them with electrical sockets etc. Cameras on the billboards themselves also would require power, and would just become targets for vandalism too. :(

      The good news is that they’re causing a jump in requests to join our area groups — there’ve been more than usual even in my local group and we’re the one located furthest away from the signs. :)

    • fredwords

      Vandalism actually happens to very few of the billboards atheists put up. But we remember the vandalism longer than we remember the many billboards that had their full run without incident. So setting up cameras will most often reap nothing–except maybe a stolen camera!

  • Verimius

    It’s too easy to reverse the meaning of the message by covering two letters. They need to come up with something that’s harder to vandalize.

    • Bill Haines

      What would you suggest?
      (This is a serious question.)

      • Bad_homonym

        I think after the word don’t is vandalized, the word club ought to be changed to cult! (Then of course remove the CoR web address)!

  • anniewhoo

    In the last photo is that wrapping paper covering the word “don’t”? If so, couldn’t prints be lifted from it? We need to start trying to catch these vandals. Right now, we are such an easy target, as no one is ever prosecuted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cameron-Willadsen/550975056 Cameron Willadsen

    And verily I say unto you, my disciples, go out into the world and preach the message of vandalism and intimidation tactics!-/sarcasmJesus

    This stuff turns my stomach.

  • Lurker111

    Aren’t we missing the point here? Leave the vandalized signs up. Add a message (a sticker), pointing to the vandalism, which says, “This is why we need separation of church and state.” Make this a lose-lose proposition for the vandals.

  • Dan
  • linda


  • DavidLuce

    Because god can’t change billboards by himself.

  • Bruce Charles Gow

    Be good if someone could park a cheap car within range and have a very cheap car camera to catch and display their pathetic efforts online http://www.walmart.com/search/search-ng.do?search_query=car+camera&ic=16_0&Find=Find&search_constraint=3944