An anti-religious banner at a city park in Streator, Illinois was stolen on Saturday, and the atheist group that placed it there claims that the theft was a Class 4 felony under Illinois' hate crime laws.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's "Nobody died for our sins. Jesus Christ is a myth" banner was placed in the park to protest the Christian signs and crosses that have been erected their ahead of Easter for the past five years. The eight-foot by three-foot banner was placed in the park on Thursday evening, but less than two days later it was gone.
"It is so dismaying to see mob rule prevail," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "This vandalism amounts to censorship and suppression of minority viewpoints."
City officials have said they are treating the park as a public forum, and therefore any religious display is allowed.
"This crime against our banner shows the harm when a local government purports to create a 'public forum' for religion on government property," Gaylor added "The only viewpoint that is going to be heard in Streater is a Christian viewpoint. There are tax-exempt Christian churches throughout Streater where it is appropriate to place Christian crosses and displays. A public park is not one of them."
FFRF is offering a $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.
[Image via the Freedom from Religious Foundation]