The press release, published on Lanza’s official government website, calls for the revocation of the fifty-year-old organization’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. The release further announces a petition for the removal of a billboard placed in Times Square by the organization. Lastly, the senator called for his supporters to “send a message” by boycotting Times Square just weeks before Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
“This is shockingly wrong,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “An elected official, in his official capacity, is trying to silence us, and hurt local businesses in the process. Why? Because he opposes our message on religious grounds? The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees our right to free speech. Revoking our nonprofit status is an abuse of power and we will not be bullied. He should be ashamed and the people of New York should be ashamed.”
Earlier this month, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign in Times Square with the simple message that nobody needs Jesus in order to have a great Christmas. Many conservatives in the media, including Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, have taken personal offense, calling the billboard an attack.