"What this really communicates to us is the stranglehold that the Mormon church has on the community in Utah," said Dave Muscato, American Atheists public relations director. "It reminds me of the Mafia in Italy. They don’t even have to make threats. People just know that they’re supposed to be afraid."

The outspoken group’s 40th annual convention will run April 17-20 at the downtown Hilton and is expected to draw about 1,000 people, including keynote speaker and NFL punter Chris Kluwe. AA officials say they called nine Utah companies looking for three to five billboards to promote September’s early-bird rates, but after repeated attempts, only two called them back.

Muscato said Reagan Outdoor Advertising told him they’d pass, and YESCO, after first rejecting a play on the church’s "I’m a Mormon" ad campaign, then nixed three other submissions that made no mention of Mormons but instead depicted a family, students and an elderly couple with a red arrow pointing to them from the word "Atheists."