A off-duty police officer was at a restaurant with friends in Pitman shortly before noon Tuesday when he spotted the men underneath a billboard reminding onlookers to “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia.”
The billboards were rented from Clear Channel by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which objects to the “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner set up on Pitman’s main thoroughfare by the Knights of Columbus.
The atheist group’s billboard shows the planet Saturn, but its message refers to the ancient Roman holiday at Winter Solstice named for the deity that also lent his name to the ringed planet.
The off-duty officer from another town said the men doused gasoline on the sign and tried to set it on fire, but they could not keep the fire going.
The men gave up and fled in a pickup after some people approached them from across the street.
They have not yet been identified or arrested.
The restaurant’s owner said there had been a few attempts to cover the billboard with “Keep Christ in Christmas” signs since it went up last week, and a man wearing a Santa Claus suit stood near the sign for a while on Sunday.
Police also stopped another man Sunday who tried to set a ladder against the billboard and cover the sign with a poster of a manger.
[Image: adult hand lighting a lighter and the warm flame via Shutterstock]
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