Atheist Banner Vandal Has Been Charged with Criminal Mischief

Last month, Justin Vacula put up the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Winter Solstice banner in Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square (Pennsylvania):

That banner was hung high above the ground specifically so it wouldn’t get vandalized… but within a day, the banner was cut down and replaced with an American flag.

Not only did someone confess to the crime — there was videotaped evidence of it!

Shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday, a man who identified himself as Joe McDonald climbed about 30 feet up the sculpture, cut two wires holding one end of the banner, and left it dangling in the wind alongside an American flag that he had placed on the scaffolding.

“I just think in the light of the elementary school massacre in Connecticut, that we shouldn’t be divided as a country over petty stuff like is there a God or isn’t there a God,” said McDonald. “If they wanted to put the sign down here with us, that’s fine because we’re united. But to put it above everybody? No, it’s symbolic.”

What was really frustrating at the time was how McDonald appeared to get away with it. There seemed to be no punishment against him.

But there’s now some good news to report: McDonald will have to explain his case to a judge:

Charges were filed on January 2, 2013 according to the Department of Justice website. The case status is listed as active under magistrate Kane. Joe is being charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief (and apparently has previously been charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian).

Here’s hoping he faces some sort of punishment — anything that will help stave off future vandals.

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.


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