“What we set out to do was spread a charitable message across the valley, in a time when I think we could all use the support.”

“I met my wife in California and we had our kids there. We left for Idaho in 2016, because of what I’ll label as ‘freedom-of-choice issues.’ We were having a hard time being parents in California. There are few states still allowing people like us to live a normal life as parents and we came here for that reason.”

“When the COVID-19 restrictions started happening, I took a pretty hard stance on how I was going to deal with it. There were a couple others in the community that I met who were on the same page as me, and we decided to brainstorm how best to approach these issues.”

“We wanted to advocate for everyone’s liberties. The first couple meetings were mostly complaining and a lot of talking about what the problem is, but no action-oriented solutions. I’m an action guy, so I kind of drew the line in the sand and said that we needed to figure out what we were doing here. What’s the purpose of our group?”

“That’s where the ‘Smile, You Are Free’ campaign started. Local officials were trying to convert the mandate into something enforceable by law, creating a misdemeanor fine around not wearing a mask in designated spaces. That became the focal point of our campaign and ‘Smile, You Are Free’ was born out of it.”

“It caught like wildfire, small businesses started putting these signs up in their windows, people started putting up the yard signs. But there would be people who would take them down or deface them. I have a four-way stop sign by me where I put the signs up – the next day they were gone.”

“What this is about is spreading a positive message, supporting free choice and human dignity. It’s just you putting this in your window. We didn’t and aren’t asking you to do anything else, but let’s take a stand together for freedom of choice and human dignity.”

“So, then we started thinking, how do we take this to the next level? How do we spread this message further? We came up with ‘Be Not Afraid’ and wanted to put it on bus stop benches across town. We wanted to strip all the branding away and just bring the essence of this message to the community.”

“I paid to put the signs up in mid-March.”

“Then, I got the call a couple weeks ago that they’ve decided to take them down.”

“I was thinking, this makes no sense. It’s just a wonderful message, plain text, on a solid color background. What could possibly be offensive about this?”

“It was a pure message with a lot of community support.”

“It was frustrating to see it get pulled because a small minority may have not liked it.”

Luke Gilbert
Boise, ID