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A Battle Over 'Keep Christ In Christmas' Boils Over In Pitman, New Jersey

By Jim Melwert

PITMAN, N.J. (CBS) - An Atheist group protesting a Christmas sign in a South Jersey town is offering a reward after someone tried to light their billboard on fire.

The billboard says "Keep Saturn in Saturnalia" in reference to an ancient roman holiday. It's paid for by a national group and is a response of sorts to a Knights of Columbus banner that hangs across Broadway here in the heart of town, and says "Keep Christ in Christmas".

Pitman resident Frank Mull says it's annoying that a group of out of towners is coming in and telling them what to do.

"We have 12 churches in the boro. We like the message," Mull said. "And I don't feel they have the right to come in and tell us what to do in our town."

Residents here also say the person who tried to light the billboard on fire went too far. There was no damage to the metal structure.

The mayor of Pitman Russ Johnson says this is the third year they've heard from the atheist group, but he says they have no legal grounds as over half a dozen non-profits hang a banner at the same place throughout the year.

In an interview with 1210 WPHT's Dom Giordano, the mayor repeated that statement, telling Giordano that "that sign that's hung over Broadway for probably 40 years is one of about eight nonprofit signs" displayed throughout the town.

"I've been in touch with our police chief and our fire rescue unit to make sure they've done everything in their power to find who did this and to prevent it in the future," Mayor Johnson said.

Pitman does "NOT favor one religion," Johnson emphasized.

To listen to the mayor's interview with Dom Giordano, click here.

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