A sign encouraging freedom from religion was stolen from Nelson Park in Manassas just after Christmas — one of five similar signs legally placed in public spaces across the nation that disappeared over the holiday.
With the slogan, “Let Reason Prevail,” the local sign was placed in Nelson Park near a Naivety scene, officials from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation said Thursday.
Thieves stole the sign, leaving only the sign-securing zip ties behind, according to the foundation. The sign was reported missing to Manassas Police on Dec. 29, two days before its city-issued permit expired.
A supporter of the membership-based foundation comprised of agnostics and atheists obtained a permit from the city and put the sign in the park.
It’s not unheard of for the banners to be burned or spray painted, Freedom From Religion Foundation attorney Patrick Elliott said in a phone interview.
Twelve of the “Let Reason Prevail” signs were erected in public places across the U.S. — five of those were stolen, Elliott said.
Nativity scenes and freedom from religion signs are divisive during what is supposed to be a joyous time a year for both Christians and non-Christians, Elliott said.
It really doesn’t bring out the best in people, he added.
The foundation is against any religious display in a public place and places its signs beside such displays in protest and to offer an alternative point of view, Elliott said.
The nearby Christmas crèche or, nativity scene, placed in the park by the Women’s Club of Manassas, remains in place, Manassas city officials said. That display was reportedly vandalized in early December.
A Manassas city permit allows the crèche to stay until Friday, two days before the Day of Epiphany on Sunday. Orthodox Christmas is on Monday.
Any group is allowed to put a display in the park, if they obtain a city permit and follow the city’s guidelines, Manassas officials said. The "Let Reason Prevail "banner was permitted to stay in the park until Dec. 31.
Displays are allowed to stay in place for five days with the option to renew for another five days.