Trouble with atheist billboards

Posted on June 19, 2011

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Some of you may remember the Atheist Bus Campaign that was launched a little while back.  The purpose of the campaign was to raise some money (I think $10,000) in order to pay for advertising space on city buses in the UK for the atheist message “There is probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Yes, that IS Richard Dawkins standing in the bus; he was a major supporter of the campaign, and ended up matching much of the donations made to the campaign with his own funds.  The campaign, with the modest goal of obtaining only a few thousand dollars (or pounds) ended up earning nearly $150,000!!  The campaign was so tremendously successful that they were able to advertise on myriad buses throughout the UK, and for a long time.

Since this initial bus campaign there have been many atheist organizations who followed suit and started bus campaigns of their own.  Atheist buses can now be seen all over the world in select cities.  Another spinoff from the bus campaigns are the more recent atheist billboards that have been going up along highways in many countries.  These billboards have been met with much disdain, especially in conservative neighborhoods, or because of their proximity to churches.  Many billboards have been the target of vandalism, that is, if they’ve even been allowed to be displayed in the first place.  Many billboard companies have expressed reluctance to display the atheist billboards because of the less-than-virtuous message they believe is being expressed, despite the fact that they have absolutely no reservations regarding other, pro-God billboards, some of which are extremely offensive to non-believers because of how they portray atheists.

I haven’t been blogging very much (at all really) about past incidences of vandalism and advertiser push-back regarding atheist billboards, but I am going to join in, since I feel it is important to let the injustice atheists are faced with to be known to as wide an audience as possible.

Just recently the billboard advertising company Billboard Australia has refused The Atheist Foundation of Australia permission to display the following sign as part of their campaign encouraging people to be honest on their 2011 census form.

The reason they were refused billboard space?  Apparently the sign is “too political.”

President of the AFA David Nicholls said, “We have been refused billboard advertising space in Queanbeyan, NSW on the excuse that our sign is a political message. It is not. It is a message directing Australians to answer the Census question on religion accurately.”

How is a plea for people to fill out their census form honestly deemed “too political,” or even political at all?  Sure, there is the message to “take religion out of politics,” but it’s not through deceptive means.  In fact, overtly asking for honesty is the least deceptive thing I can think of.

Let us hope the AFA is able to file a successful lawsuit for discrimination with this one.  The laws in Australia regarding this kind of thing are foreign to me, but there certainly must be something in the books about overtly discriminating against atheist billboards.  I will post updates on this matter as I become aware of further progress.  Until then, Google “atheist billboards” in your region and donate to their cause if it is within your means to do so!

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