July 24, 2016

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Highland graduate offers support to nontheists in billboard campaign

Craig Bauman, of Granger Township, is featured on a Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard promoting the University of Akron Secular Student Alliance. Bauman, center, is a student at the university and graduate of Highland High School. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

Craig Bauman, a 2008 Highland High School graduate, is featured on this Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard promoting the University of Akron Secular Student Alliance. Bauman, center, is a student at the university. The billboard can be found at East Exchange and Goodkirk streets in Akron. (PHOTO PROVIDED)

AKRON — A 2008 Highland High School graduate is featured on a billboard that’s sending a supportive message to atheists, agnostics and other nontheists.

Craig Bauman, a fifth-year senior at University of Akron studying mechanical engineering, is one of almost two dozen people featured on 11 billboards across Northeast Ohio.

His billboard at East Exchange and Goodkirk streets reads, “Question everything? You’re not alone.” Bauman, formerly of Granger Township, is pictured next to two other members of University of Akron Secular Student Alliance.

Bauman said the billboard’s message is meant to be supportive.

“We take a couple cues from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) movement, in that it’s very hard to come out as an atheist,” said Bauman, 24. “Often, coming out as an atheist is very similar to coming out as gay — you may suffer a loss of community and family.”

Bauman said he wanted people to see that atheists are people, too.

“We thought we needed to break many of the stigmas associated with atheism,” Bauman said. “It’s harder to hate your enemy if you can put a face to them.”

The billboard campaign is sponsored by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. Members of its Northern Ohio Freethought Society chapter say some goals are to let area nontheists know others share their views, and to make religious believers more comfortable with them.

Mark Tiborsky, of Richmond Heights, appears on a billboard in Cleveland with his wife.

“The main idea is to help other freethinkers not be afraid to come out of the closet and know that there are plenty of other people of similar worldview,” Tiborsky told The Plain Dealer.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a church-state watchdog organization that claims more than 20,000 members, including about 550 in Ohio. The organization debuted its “Out of the Closet” campaign in Madison in 2010 and has taken the campaign to several other U.S. cities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @ngfalcon.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.