Illinois Comptroller Candidate William J. Kelly Vandalizes Atheist Sign December 23, 2009

Illinois Comptroller Candidate William J. Kelly Vandalizes Atheist Sign

The Freedom From Religion Foundation had put this sign up in front of the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield:

It turns out a conservative candidate for Illinois comptroller, William J. Kelly, was offended by the idea that anyone could disagree with him so he tried to take matters into his own hands:

William J. Kelly announced Tuesday that he planned to take down the sign put up by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, and on Wednesday, he tried to make good on his plan.

But Kelly said when he turned the sign around so it was face down, state Capitol police were quick to escort him away.

Illinois Secretary of State’s office spokeswoman Henry Haupt said Kelly was escorted from the rotunda by state Capitol police, who briefly detained him, wrote an incident report, and directed him to leave the building.

Can someone ask Kelly what his reaction would be if we treated the Nativity scene the same way he treated the atheist sign?

Dan Barker, co-president of FFRF, was there with a lovely soundbyte:

“We atheists believe that the nativity scene is mocking humanity,” by suggesting that those who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell, Barker said. “But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech.”

Kelly, by the way, is a guy who says he’s going after the “beer and pizza vote” on his personal website. I’m pretty sure the beer and pizza types disapprove of his vandalism of an atheist sign.

(via Skeptic Money)

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  • Eli

    O_o The guy looks like rev. Newlin from True Blood series. Maybe he’ll just end up the same? XD

  • I like to think of myself as a “pizza and beer” kind of atheist. He wouldn’t get my vote.

  • That’s the kinda guy that makes me want to be a dick to just about everyone. You don’t screw around with freedom of speech, especially if you’re connected with government in any way.

  • JokeJustice

    Yes, quite funny how the atheist sign isn’t “attacking” religious freedom by stating that religion is just there to enslave and harden hearts. The Christmas tree isn’t saying that. The nativity isn’t saying that and neither is the menora. However, we know if any of those symbols did have a statement like that on them, there would be such a legal uproar from the unbelief religion of atheism, that everyone would be quaking! It certainly shows fear on behalf of the FFRF to need to add that statment to their sign. I do see the strategy though…cause such a circus with every group (FFRF, ACLU, etc) wanting to get their symbol/sign displayed as well, that pretty soon NONE will be allowed to be displayed. Clever.

  • Richard Wade

    Oh I see his election strategy. The TV hair and the $3,000 suit make him look too “elitist” to get enough votes in Illinois, so to get the “pizza and beer” vote, he has to act like a fascist asshole.

  • MrAtheist

    I also find the sign offensive. I’m an atheist, but the Christmas display is a cultural symbol and the Christians who appreciate it are just trying to have good holidays. It doesn’t have “All atheists are stupid” written on it.” This display really ticks me off.

    I find many Christian beliefs very offensive, but I don’t find the nativity scene to be standing for any of these beliefs. If it does stand for them, it is indirect and unintentional. I’m a ‘cultural Christian’ and I don’t find it productive to mock the nativity scene on Christmas.

    That said, I am sorry so many atheists seem to feel this way, and I am saddened when I think of how this will further harden people’s hearts towards our cause.

  • Tizzle

    I agree that this is probably one of the least ‘friendly’ atheist signs around, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t included in free speech, JokeJustice.

  • ThatOtherGuy

    “I’m pretty sure the beer and pizza types disapprove of his vandalism of an atheist sign.”

    Oh hell no, I’m sure there are plenty that would do far more than what he did, and applaud him for his actions. They probably think he didn’t do enough.

  • Has anyone noticed that his blog is pretty much inactive?

  • Sue D. Nymme

    I must disagree with Barker’s comment that the Nativity implies that those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to Hell.

    Yes, most Christians believe that; however, the Nativity is an expression of the joy and wonder of what they believe to have been the birth of the incarnation of their deity.

    Similarly, the FFRF sign need not have been critical of religion; it could have (I believe should have) been a simple statement of positive affirmation.

    If they want to have a War On Christmas, let them — but let us atheists stake out the moral high ground. We need not be ashamed or quiet about our beliefs, but because of the public perception of atheists, we must be careful about how our every action will be scrutinized.

  • Derek

    I’d say the sign should indeed be allowed to stay up. As Tizzle mentioned… there is free speech. But if I were an atheist, I’d try to to sound a little less hostile towards my religious neighbors…like Sue (and some others, thanks for that).

    I know that many of my fellow Christians can be hostile at times (and I truly am sorry for that), but if some of us, atheist and religious, alike can manage to love one another (and encourage others to do the same)… Man, wouldn’t that be something?

  • Trace

    Is he a teabagger?

  • Sesoron

    I like beer (albeit slightly more classy stuff than [popular beer brand] light) and I work in pizza, and that’s definitely not the kind of comptroller I’d want trolling my comps.

  • All I want is for Christians to actually follow the words attributed to Jesus to be nice and considerate to their fellow man in this world and leave it to the supposed afterlife to engage in the “cultural war”. Christians should save persecution, discrimination, and bullying until the afterlife. Perhaps some would even look forward to helping God/Jesus with the eternal torture of atheists. As long as they defer such activities until after they die, then I say they can believe anything they want.

  • science101

    He looks like a douche and acts like one too!

  • Peregrine

    I don’t like the sign. Didn’t much care for it last year either. It’s long, convoluted, and while it does effectively state our generally shared opinions, it’s not the most catching slogan we’ve come up with. It’s directly and deliberately confrontational, while signs like the one in Olympia, Washington are short, sweet, and tend to lean more towards promoting unity and understanding between atheists and believers. It’s a much better sign. Could do with a little more poetic sentimentality without getting too sappy, but it’s a giant step in the right direction.

    That’s one thing that’s bothered me recently about the atheist movement; We’re very good at long, thought-out rationalizations, but we suck as short and pithy. It is a verbal attack on religion, at a time of year when I for one would rather promote setting differences aside, and cooperating with believers for the mutually shared goal of peace, understanding, and goodwill.

    If a sign like this went up in my neighbourhood, even as an atheist, I wouldn’t be happy about it, and I wouldn’t identify with it.

    But having said that, I am compelled to agree that it has as much right to exist as the nativity it sits next to.

    While I may agree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to poorly and ineffectively communicate it.

  • BrianE

    I live in Illinois, love beer and pizza, and would slap this snarky looking jackass like a bitch if I ever saw em.

  • Shawn

    The sign is unnecessarily, explicitly negative (all atheist signs, unfortunately, must be implicitly negative). It’s unfortunate this group would try to promote atheism with this message, accurate though it is. Honey v. vinegar.

    This comptroller is a douche. It sounds like he pussied out of destroying the sign, but he’ll still get points from the trucknuts crowd. He should do well in politics.

  • It sounds like he pussied out of destroying the sign

    It seems obvious he wanted to avoid the possibility of any criminal charges and was just out to get the publicity he got. I would have preferred the police waited to see what else he did before escorting him away. It would have been amusing to see him standing there after turning the sign face down and not knowing what to do next when the police took no action. He’d have to choose to either vandalize it to get his “incident” or walk away, knowing the sign would be righted as soon as he left.

  • Sue D. Nymme


    We’re very good at long, thought-out rationalizations, but we suck as short and pithy.

    Well put.

    It is a verbal attack on religion, at a time of year when I for one would rather promote setting differences aside, and cooperating with believers for the mutually shared goal of peace, understanding, and goodwill.

    Also well put.

    (by the way, nice hat)

  • science101

    I’m not a big fan of the sign myself but no matter what language is used, someone or some group will take offense.

  • richer

    during the season of yule, is an opportunity to come together as people. This requires not only reason but compassion and respect for others. Conflict usually drives humans away from reason toward emotional reaction and more conflict… not a good choice of words by the ffrf

  • Todd

    Of course, the real crime is butchering a Cheap Trick classic. Rick should have wacked him over the head with one of his guitars, when he had the chance.

  • Vas

    The state capitol building also has a aluminum Festivus pole, for the second year running. It could be fairly said that this pole mocks Christmas as well.
    Jokejustice just may be correct as to the strategy of the sign, I think it is an attempt to rid our government buildings of vile displays representing a belief system that does mock mankind, and yes nativity scenes do mock mankind and the notion of autonomy and the government displays do alienate all non xtians. I don’t really like the sign much, and many don’t, it is brash and mocking and unpleasant, (and I believe a statement of fact). It is free speech as a weapon, it is protected, it has a proven track record and I support it’s deployment in the culture wars.

  • I doubt the reason for wanting to remove the sign has anything to do with being disagreed with.

  • Staceyjw

    I may be in the minority, but I LIKE the sign. How often do we get to say something like this while so many others are listening- and they have to allow and protect it!

    Besides, we ALL know that it doesn’t matter what it says, xtians will bitch about it regardless. This douchbag would have donesomething regardless of the wording, because its the fact that we are vocal at all that bothers him.

    Yes, I get the honey vs vinegar thing, but public atheist messages take the “high ground” and strive not to offend 99% of the time, I am celebrating the one occasion we said something very critical (and TRUE).

  • muggle

    Short and pithy? My favorite quote — Margaret Sanger: “No gods, no masters”. Short, pithy and kind of says it all.

    I like the FFRF sign, always have and always will. Can we please stop kissing ass in the culture wars before we PC ourselves straight into oppression? In case you haven’t noticed, we’re a lot less free than we were 30 years ago. The time has come to take a hard stand.

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