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anti-religion billboard vandalized
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for damaging their sign. Contact the foundation by phone at 608-256-8900, or by e-mail at info@ffrf.org.

Three big gobs of yellow paint were hurled against an anti-religion billboard near Watertown last week, resulting in the temporary removal of the sign, said message sponsor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

"We have been doing billboards since October of 2007 and this is only the second time we have had one marred by vandalism," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, foundation co-president.

The large sign, 20 feet above the road and a large target for paint-throwing vandals, carried the message in a stained-glass-window design: "Enjoy Life Now: There Is No Afterlife."

Ed Schulz, of Adams Outdoor, which created and installed the leased sign, said it appears someone climbed up on to the sign catwalk and emptied a few paint cans on to the billboard.

Gaylor said a foundation supporter had paid for the six-week lease and production of a vinyl sign, which went up the first week of August. She would not reveal the cost of the sign or name of the donor, but said the same donor has contributed $500 and the foundation added $500 to a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the damage.

Gaylor said the Madison-based foundation has several billboard campaigns ongoing, including in Tampa, Trenton, New Orleans and Atlanta.

Considering the hot-button nature of its reason for being, the foundation, which works to keep church and state separate, has a remarkably vandalism-free history in its outdoor advertising campaigns, which include birthday greetings for Charles Darwin and suggestions that people sleep-in on Sundays. Other media have been targeted, however. A banner placed during the holiday season in the Capitol celebrating the solstice has been targeted by thieves and vandals so often that it carries a message: "Thou Shalt Not Steal."

Gaylor said the sign, located on High Street, which runs parallel to Highway 26, or Church Street, at the south entrance to Watertown, should be replaced by mid-September.

The damage was noticed Friday morning, she said.

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