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Vandals hit this west Hood River faith community’s sign.

Freedom of speech and religion are intertwined as basic American, and human, rights.

Both need to be fully respected — even when we disagree with what others are saying.

At the end of each year, this newspaper publishes the Readerboard Year, a list of messages that are an important part of the community conversation about faith and many other topics. The list serves, in part, as a reminder of our inherent rights to free expression and worship.

The annual list is a compilation of messages seen throughout the year on changeable church and other signboards around the Gorge, and is intended as a celebration of the ideas that help define us — from the humorous and philosophical to the cantankerous and controversial.

Yet this week the Readerboard Year gains a new, bittersweet meaning as we witness an apparent act of vandalism to one of the church boards, at Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist, which has a long list of messages in this year’s Readerboard Year, seen on page A8. People have messed with the church’s readerboard letters in the past, which is bad enough, but damaging the church sign goes too far and we hope somehow whoever is responsible will be held accountable.

Reader Nancy Johanson Paul called out the hatefulness of the act in her letter on this page. No sign or other piece of private or public property deserves such treatment. As Paul points out, it’s a crime, and vandalism is never an appropriate action.

We extend our hopes to Pastor Mike Harrington that in 2020 he continues the good fight, even if his messages occasionally rankle.

Repairing damage such as this is never cheap, Consider sending a $20 to the church to help with the project, at 4200 Belmont. Signs are important, and gifts such as that are a big help to a small congregation.

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(1) comment


Whether you agree with the reader board is immaterial - what is important is the right to express constitutionally protected speech. Good for the editor for denouncing this attack on the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, former mayor Blackburn only threw gas on the fire when he went in the print media and Portland TV news and stated:

“I was really annoyed and sad,” Hood River mayor, Paul Blackburn, told KATU. “I am annoyed that in this political season there’s a solid case of ugly going on. I think it norms up this kind of behavior like ‘oh it’s okay to be a bigot now.’”

Blackburn used his position to publicly shame and deride a Pastor that has a constitutional right to his opinion. The beginning of the end of democracy is when government officials use their position to suppress free speech.

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