American Atheists’ Latest Billboards Taken Down Following Threats


Thanks to Quine for the link

Less than two weeks after they went up in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the Democratic National Convention, the American Atheists’ billboards criticizing the presidential candidates’ faiths have been taken down:

According to a press release from the organization:

“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,” said Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ Managing Director.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny—and this includes religion in all forms,” Ms. Knief said. “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.”

Written By: Hemant Mehta
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  1. Disgusting, frustrating and saddening. I don’t know why I continue to live in this hypo-theocratic, educationally-stunted country.

  2. This is a important subject, and there are going to be many points of view. Some will argue that the right to public criticism of religion has to be upheld, regardless of cost. Some will argue  that the billboard campaign is a waste of time and money that only antagonizes the religious. Others may argue that this is only an isolated case where the message went too far and should have been toned down enough in the first place. Still others will hold it up as a needed example of the limits that are placed on the community of non-believers, to be trotted out when such limits are generally not recognized by the religious (who claim victimhood for their side). 

    I can see some good points in all of those. However, the question of if these signs should have been put up in the first place, and the question of if they should have been taken down, are not as important as the questions of what have we learned from this, and what should be done next?

  3. I like how “Promotes hate, calls it love” is on the billboard and they responded with vitriol, threats and hate speech. How kind of them to prove the point.

  4. I would find it rather humorous if, in humble protest, individual members of and atheist not otherwise associated with the site printed the image themselves and put it up all over the country (where the public posting of material is allowed, obviously – vandalism would be bad)

    As for the threats of violence – is anyone surprised by this? Let us not forget how religion rose to prominence in the first place.

  5. Was to be expected. It’s easy to say so afterwards, I know. 

    Who is of the opinion that although it’s within AA’s rights to post it, the message isn’t beneficial to ‘the cause’? Religion deserves to be mocked, because what is sacred becomes immune to criticism. But on the other hand, the message is bound to have a negative impact on the goodwill atheists are working so hard to earn in the ‘Christian nation’ the US.

  6. I was so waiting for this. I remember reading the original post when they were about to put the ads up, and the comments, and some people said that the content on the ad was ‘beneath us’ so to speak. Lol! Some floral dude was so upset!

    I believe this response was inevitable. Surely if some religious group put up an ad about atheism in this same manner, an atheist group or individual atheists would tear it down or sue or something.

    I just hope whoever is in charge will get their money back.

  7. AA Vice President Kathleen Johnson:
    “They have apologized and have offered a full refund. They also offered to put up a message supporting us and thereby continue our original contract without our exact message but since it wasn’t going to be our message, we decided to accept the refund instead and put that money towards future campaigns.”

  8. You’re kidding, right? I live in the Charlotte area, and hate speech against atheists is a way of life around here. I’m talking about things like church signs that tell me atheists are hellbound. I regularly see signs that literally tell me that because of my state if mind, I shall be tortured forever.

    I’ve never seen such a sign torn down or vandalized at all by atheists.

    Sue? No. But I will give them the finger as I drive by. I do hope I’m considered within my free speech rights doing that.

  9. That’s the whole point. It’s NOT sacred to everyone, and IS open to criticism. Religious idiots will simply have to get used to it–no matter how long or how many billboards that takes.

  10. American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,”

    Why was it mutual? Is it because we got the press we wanted (and that’s always the best part about these signs) and got our money back, so that we can strike again? And we come out as the reasonable side?

  11. Silencing those with the truth reinforces the believers of the supernatural but the truth remains.

  12. Adams Outdoor Advertising is in the business of making money; it’s not a political organisation. If its staff was threatened, then removing the billboards was the right thing to do. A business’s first consideration must always be the safety of its employees.

    They offered a full refund, which presumably they were required to do, and offered to put up a message of support for American Atheists, which wasn’t required but was nevertheless gracious and courteous.

    I would say these people behaved in an exemplary manner, and shouldn’t be the target of a bunch of snotty emails from a lot of unholier-than-thou, outraged armchair atheists.

  13. Mrkimbo, I think you’re absolutely correct. Appeals for the exercise of reason and rationality over faith
    should be made in a more reasonable, rational manner. Using inflammatory language and phraseology 
    only leads the billboard reader to reject the message because of the crassness of its delivery.

  14. If the American Atheists wants to be included in the rotating PSA ads at the foot of each web page on my site, I offer it free of charge.  Perhaps other websites could do the same.

    I am disappointed they caved to threats.  I have had over 3300 death threats myself from these loons and I am still alive.  I think people grossly over estimate the danger.  If people are going to hurt you they will not give you the courtesy of a heads up, and a trail the police can follow back to them.

  15. It takes all sorts. In the long term, all adverts and all styles will have to be used (a) to avoid getting repetitive and (b) ensure the ads appeal to eveyone at some time. We’ve had plenty of reasonable ones to date.

    Personally, I liked this advert the best of all I’ve seen – especially the toast!

  16. I think the AA got what they wanted out of the deal in the first place, as mordacious1 suggested: publicity and the money for future campaigns. I’d rather they both backed down before threats became actual assaults, so I pretty much agree with you (though the irony of this backing down is breathtaking, given the message).

    The billboard comes across as too self-righteous and belligerent. I wonder what the advertising agency thought they were getting themselves into in the first place.

  17. The brain drain used to be from Europe and the UK to America; I understand that that trend has now reversed, and that many top flight people are also fleeing to China and India.

    Religion really does poison absolutely everything!

  18. I have made some comments about this on other news threads and have been accused, there, of defending hate speech in the form of these billboards. I have argued that religious people may take offense at ridicule of their beliefs, but it does not rise to hate speech if no hate or bad treatment toward religious people is included, i.e. no inclusions of things like “kill them” or “beat them up” or “round them up and lock them up” or “deport them” or “burn their churches” or “exclude them from jobs” etc.

    Is this a difference that makes a difference? Can we ridicule religion without directing hate at the religious? Is it so if they think it is so, i.e., is it hate speech if they feel hated, regardless of content? How can we express “we don’t dislike you, we just think your religion is not supported by reason”?

  19. What can be considered to be hate speech is often in the eye of the beholder. Christians love to think that they’re the ones who are under assault: from a liberal media, from a science lobby determined to impose its own version of creation onto their children, and make them believe the lie of man-made climate change, and from a myriad other secular boogie men.

    You can see this in the row over marriage equality. Christians’ sense of victimhood is so enshrined that they’ve managed to turn what should have been just a historical footnote – a legal oversight such as those laws that say something like you’re not allowed to take a live duck into a barbershop in Wisconsin on the Sabbath – into what they perceive to be an all out assault on themselves. They are the real victims. It’s their rights that are being impinged upon.

    So, no. If you’re criticising them then you’re guilty of hate speech. Feel free to say whatever you like about other religions, the First Amendment covers that, but criticising them and their beliefs is unconstitutional and un-American and makes you a hater.

  20. I think the AA got what they wanted out of the deal in the first place, as mordacious1 suggested: publicity and the money for future campaigns.

    That’s probably true, but I think that by deciding to cut their losses and not allow Alans Outdoor Advertising to put up its own message of support, they missed a real opportunity.

    A carefully drafted statement would have allowed an innocent third party to demonstrate how Christian intolerance has jeopardised its ability as a small business to make money – the holy grail of many on the fiscal right – and terrorised some of those in its employ.

    Ordinary Americans may not give two beans about some political group with its own agenda to promote, but when average hardworking people like themselves get caught in the crossfire, they tend to sit up and take notice.

  21. I’m (not in the slightest bit) sorry to go against the mainstream flow here, but I think the wording of the ad was chosen to antagonize christians, and yet we all know that christians are very easily antagonized or offended. This was more than predictable, it was invited. The British slogan placed on London buses was much better, “There’s probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Of course, a teenage girl came up with THAT one, not a committee.

    I agree with countering christian’s statements of belief, but I don’t believe in baiting them. It’s too easy and it’s bullying more than it is arguing. Bullying them just makes them stick together more, and we like them more when they DON’T aggregate into angry mobs.

  22. It’s true, they could have kept away from jesus’ image and stuck to good ole vague god. You know, and encompass all the bogus statements and idea’s.

    It still should have stayed up, though.

    But one day… will.

  23. I think a good tactic would be to put up billboards with actual bible quotes. You know, the nice ones about girls having to marry their rapists or god ordering genocide. Just the quote and the relevant atheist org logo. Christians could hardly complain about bible quotes.  

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