The Freedom From Religion Foundation's Imagine No Religion billboard, which went up late last week in Rancho Cucamonga, California, for a two-month run, has been censored by General Outdoor Co., which took down the Foundation's vinyl message.
While the Foundation has encountered billboard companies unwilling to lease boards in several locations, this is the first time one of its billboards has been censored after going up.
The colorful billboard carries the Freedom From
Religion Foundation's name and website, and boasts a John Lennon-esque statement, Imagine No Religion, against a stained-glass window background.
Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor called such censorship unprofessional and
cavalier: Are religionists so thin-skinned they must squelch free debate? One small freethought billboard in the immense state of California is such a threat to insecure religious egos that it must be censored?
There is nothing insulting
in our message. We simply invite the public to think, to imagine a world free from religion. Think of the history of believers warring over their imaginary gods, the fact that more people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other
reason! The human race needs to grow up. We should concentrate on improving this world, and stop worrying about the next.
The national Freedom From Religion Foundation is filing a lawsuit in federal court against the City of Rancho Cucamonga, California, for taking actions which led to the censorship of its Imagine No Religion billboard.
largest national association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) and a state/church watchdog, said City violated the Foundation's rights under the Establishment Clause and Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Foundation's pretty sign, which was evidently destroyed by General Outdoor Co. after its removal on Nov. 21, had a stained-glass window motif asking viewers to
Imagine No Religion and advertising the Foundation's name and website, ffrf.org.
The Foundation had prepaid for the board and contracted for a two-month run beginning in mid-November. The Board had been up for less than a week when it was
removed at the apparent instigation of Linda Daniels, Rancho Cucamonga Development Director.
The Defendants' actions conveyed a message that religion is favored, preferred, and promoted by the City of Rancho Cucamonga and its officials,
despite subsequent attempts to cover up the Defendants' involvement in sending an objectively understood message disapproving FFRF's billboard, said the Foundation.
The Foundation is seeking reasonable compensatory and punitive damages and
A billboard in Idaho declaring Beware of dogma is the latest example of humanist activists using advertising to promote atheism.
Several atheist groups in Idaho, including Humanists of Idaho, recently erected the billboard in Boise.
The ad was sponsored by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which launched a national billboard campaign in late 2007, taking its religion-free messages state-by-state.
Bryan Fischer, executive director of Idaho Values
Alliance, responded to the billboard in a statement saying: The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
Ironically we actually agree with the slogan, but we think the dogma Americans need to
be aware of is the dogma of secular fundamentalism, which is at odds with the worldview of the Founders.
This country was founded on a fundamentally religious concept that there is a Creator and that Creator is the source of our fundamental civil
liberties. The FFRF has placed 27 billboards in 15 states so far. The organization is headed by Dan Barker, a former Christian Pentecostal preacher and musician.
Earlier this month American Atheists Inc., put up two billboards in Charlotte, NC aimed at the Democratic and Republican national conventions. The billboards questioned the religiosity of the two Presidential candidates.
On Thursday, August
24th, those billboards were taken down.
Directly following an article on the front page of the Fox News website, American Atheists received hundreds of hate e-mails and phone calls according to American Atheists' Managing Director, Amanda Knief.
The reason that the billboards were taken down was not however due to any threats against American Atheists, but were due to threats made toward Adams Outdoor Advertising, who sold the billboard space to the atheist group.
Knief commented in the official Press Release:
It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams
Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately.
No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny---and this includes religion in all forms. We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as
atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.
Teresa MacBain, American Atheists' Public Relations Director also commented in the Press Release:
It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief. How can we grow as a nation when such censorship exists from our own citizens?