Standing atop an approximately 8-foot-high ladder, Evan Clark tugged at a sign tightly nailed to a utility pole on the intersection of Echo Park and Bellevue avenues, just beyond the 101 freeway ramps.
The sign quoted John 14:6, and as Clark spun and pulled it to loosen it from the pole, a man in a car shouted, “The way. The truth. The life!,” quoting the words from the Bible verse emblazoned on the placard Clark was trying to take down. The man, Clark said, likely assumed he was placing the sign, not removing it.
“People put a lot of passion behind these signs and their messages and ideas about Jesus and God,” Clark said. “I don’t like to be confrontational about any of that. I just wanted to do this as a casual thing to keep our streets secular.”
Clark is part of the Atheist Street Pirates, a team of lookouts who track and occasionally take down illegally placed religious material on public streets and overpasses around the city of Los Angeles and neighborhoods in the county. They’re a subset of the LA-based Atheists United, a nonprofit that’s been in the city for nearly 40 years and that seeks to “empower people to express secular values and promote separation of government and religion.”
The idea for the street pirates first emerged as a joke during an Atheists United meeting where members bantered about what to do with religious signage they encountered across the city. Calling it “religious rubbish removal,” the alliteration inspired the Atheist Street Pirates. That led to Clark creating a public Google map database where they upload photos and locations of the signage they encounter during their commutes. The map currently shows about 70 signs across LA County, including material taken down by the pirates or others. They’ve been officially active since 2021.
If signs are “illegally marooned, our pirates will report or plunder,” Atheists United declares on its website….
The above comes from a March 3 story on Religious News Service.