The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, is offering a $2,000 reward for any information surrounding an attempt to torch an anti-Christmas billboard the group sponsored in New Jersey.
The organization, which claims hate crimes charges could be applied in this incident, is hoping that the reward will help lead to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for attempting to burn the “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” sign that was first displayed on Dec. 12 in Pitman, N.J.
The alleged burning incident unfolded on Dec. 17, according to a press release on the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s website.
Police are reportedly searching for two men who were seen by an off-duty police officer pouring gasoline in an attempt to set the billboard ablaze.
In the end, the individuals didn’t succeed in their efforts, though they are being sought and will be prosecuted if caught, UPI reported.
Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Andrew Seidel said in the group’s news release that the people responsible could be charged with a hate crime under New Jersey law in addition to attempted aggravated arson.
“Vandalism like this amounts to censorship and suppression of minority viewpoints,” said Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s especially dismaying given that it likely was done by religious persons who supposedly abide by Christian principles.”
This apparently isn’t the first attempt to silence the atheist banner’s message. A group was recently captured on video attempting, but failing, to post a sign over the billboard — and a man dressed as Santa Claus was also seen standing in protest underneath the “Saturnalia” banner:
As TheBlaze previously reported, the “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” message is clearly meant to poke fun at the Christ-centered sentiment advocated in a Knights of Columbus sign that reads “Keep Christ in Christmas.”
It also hangs in Pitman, N.J., where it has been posted annually for nearly 50 years.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has debated with the borough in the past and claimed that the locality has “shown favoritism to Christianity while censoring nonbelievers.”
When the locality refused to remove the sign, the organization decided to post it’s own contradictory message about the ancient holiday of “Saturnalia.”
Saturnalia may be unfamiliar to some, but it was an ancient festival celebrated in Rome in honor of the god Saturnus — a holiday that essentially is no longer observed. This festival, which was celebrated on Dec. 17, is credited with having an influence on modern-day Christmas festivities.
Read more about the complicated banner debate here.