An adopt-a-highway sign for an atheist group based in California was recently vandalized, the group claims, with an unknown party attaching a message on stickers that read: "God loves."
The Atheists of Butte County had a sign off of Highway 99 where someone recently placed the message "God Loves" right before their name. Photos of the vandalized signs can be found here.
George Gold, president of the Butte County group, said in a statement earlier this week that the vandalism "shows loud and clear just how necessary our group is."
"This is why our group works to offer a safe space for freedom of conscience," said Gold, whose group has removed the stickered message and reported it to the California Department of Transportation.
"Whenever an atheist is public about her or his identity, there are others who will seek to impose and proselytize their opposing views."
Founded in 2009, Atheists of Butte County is affiliated with the national Coalition of Reason, the Secular Student Alliance at Chico State and Chico Skeptics.
"Are you tired of feeling like a second-class citizen and defending your non-belief? Would you like to do something to get religion out of government? Has critical thinking made believing difficult but you don't know how to come out of the closet?" reads it Meetup page, which lists 154 members.
"If you said, 'yes,' to any of the above, then please join us to share, learn and maybe even make a difference in our community. Be sure to attend our meetings to help guide our scope and direction."
This is not the first time that the adopt-a-highway sign for the atheist group has been vandalized, according to the ABC affiliate KRCR News Channel 7.
"Gold also said the group's sign was previously tinkered with when someone attached a small sign which reads 'PRAY' to the signpost, calling the perpetrators 'morally corrupt,'" reported KRCR.
The Butte County Coalition of Reason, connected to the group, also noted that a billboard of theirs was vandalized in December 2012.
The billboard had originally said "Don't Believe in God? Join The Club," but an unknown perpetrator marked out the "Don't."
Jason Heap, national coordinator for the United Coalition of Reason, said in a statement released Tuesday that he hoped some good can come of the vandalisms.
"Hopefully this vandalism will inspire more nonreligious people in Butte County to realize how important it is to join with others of like mind," said Heap.
"Only by working together can we end bigotry against philosophical and religious minorities."