‘The only way we can have streets that are welcoming to all is if all religions can equally go through them and be on them without feeling like they are less than.’
Evan Clark, left, and Christine Jones of Atheists United take down illegally placed religious materials from public streets in Los Angeles, Feb. 19, 2022. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina
LOS ANGELES (RNS) — 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.”