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Nov 22 2011

Billboard company suddenly cancels atheist contract

The Mid Ohio Atheists, with support from American Atheists, were planning a billboard campaign with LIND Billboard Company. After months of discussion with the company, the following billboards were ready to go up tomorrow:

 That is until they received a letter the day before their billboard were going up, saying their contract had been canceled. Bewildered, MOA member Michael contacted the company, hoping there was some sort of explanation. There was an explanation alright: the ads were too offensive:

“The content of the proposed displays was supposed to have been approved beforehand by senior management at Lind, but unfortunately was not.  When the content of your proposed displays did recently come to the attention of senior management, it was felt that a legal opinion was needed as to whether the content of the proposed displays might constitute a violation of the terms and conditions of Lind’s lease agreements for the billboard structures at which the posters would be displayed.  Legal counsel determined that such displays could constitute a violation of such lease terms and conditions.  Moreover, the inflammatory nature of the proposed displays would no doubt be considered offensive to much of the community and would be harmful to Lind’s community reputation and goodwill.  Lind has always and will continue to reserve the right not to publish advertisements which, in its sole opinion, are obscene, unnecessarily offensive and/or not in the best interests of the community at large.  We regret any inconvenience this might have caused your organization and Lind will bear the costs it has already incurred in the production of the displays without charge.

Maura Siegenthaler
Vice President
Lind Media Company
North Main Street
Mansfield, Ohio 44902
            419.522.2600      
            419.571.4286      (cell)”

Can you imagine a billboard company rejecting Christians because some people in the community find their opinions offensive? Nope, because LIND has posted multiple Christian billboards before, including ones that offend the part of me that is against stupidity. We’re not allowed to state our beliefs because it may offend someone. Boo fucking hoo.

That doesn’t surprise me, though. Atheist billboards are consistently controversial, even if they just say “We exist!” What’s special about this case is that the billboard company had plenty of time to reject the ads, but came up with some bullshit excuse (about their own incompetence, no less) in order to stonewall the ads. With such little warning, these ads will not be up for the holiday season like the group intended. Congratulations, bigots – you’ve silenced a minority.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    Glodson

    And the thing that pisses me off about this kind of crap is that those billboards seem to be more about letting atheists know they aren’t alone. There are plenty of people that hide their atheism.

    They go to church and pretend. They say all the right crap. But they don’t believe. I know the internet helps, but there is something to be said to have someone in your community that is atheist too. And we’re still acceptable targets to some. I guess because we don’t believe in a magical sky wizard, we’re freaks.

    And it would be nice if communities would let like-minded individuals know they all out there.

  2. 2
    michaelsimms

    I am not a lawyer – but

    What is the legal position on that kind of thing – if they publish advertising for one set of beliefs, would it be considered discriminatory to refuse to post another beliefs advertising.

    I do love being in the UK where things like this are way less likely to happen.

  3. 3
    Gordon

    I emailed this:
    I was disappointed to hear of your last minute sabotage of Mid Ohio Atheist’s attempt to put up billboards. I hope you will be reconsidering and apologising.

    You clearly allow billboards that deal with the topic of religion. Perhaps you have not considered that there is nothing that can be said about religion that will not be offensive to someone.

    Or is it really just that you wanted to deny an atheist group the chance to spread their message?

  4. 4
    Worldtraveller

    I hope the Mid Ohio Atheists contact their local ACLU. If nothing else, getting the legal advice and having it in hand for future reference might be worth it.

    This also has the stink of religious discrimination on it, and would probably be an easy case to win in court if it came to that.

  5. 5
    jen

    I can totally see the first one being rejected on the grounds of being offensive because it’s pretty in-your-face. The other two should have been fine — they’re kind of like “Hi! By the way, we exist” in terms of message. (And for the record, this conservative Christian doesn’t love every one of the “Christian” billboards that are up. Some of them hit MY stupidity meter.)

    If this were California (with the exception of Orange County and a couple places in the northeastern part of the state), it would shock me that a billboard company did that. Ohio, not so much. It’s a churchy state. I know that it was part of the culture shock when I moved from northern California to Ohio that Christianity was so visible.

  6. 6
    Christopher Petroni

    You said that the advertising company “cancelled” the contract. As I understand it, if there was a contract, the company shouldn’t be able to cancel it unilaterally. Contracts are legally binding. I wonder if it had an escape clause allowing the company to withdraw from the agreement if it had a problem with a billboard’s content.

  7. 7
    NewEnglandBob

    I called this woman’s cell phone and someone answered and said she wasn’t there – How can one not be there on their personal cell.

    This is the statement I read into voicemail at her office:

    The actions of you and your company against midohioatheists is a violation of constitutionally guaranteed free speech.

    Your delaying tactic of waiting to respond until the last moment is dishonest and underhanded.

    Your accusation of the ads being offensive is a lie. Similar billboards have been placed all over the US including Florida, Georgia, Arizona and many other locations.

    You should know that your rejection statement has been published on the internet and millions of people will be informed of your biased and bigoted actions. I have homes in Massachusetts and Florida. I will use social media to inform others of this situation.

    Your company has published many absurd ads from religious organizations in the past and you did not reject those.

    It will not take too long before atheist organizations and their attorneys bring legal action against you. In the past, they have almost always succeeded.

    You need to reverse this action and produce the billboards as you were hired to do.

  8. 8
    Brian Westley

    The last billboard is nearly identical to a church billboard from a few months earlier (and was the inspiration for this one). The company can’t validly claim that a billboard with identical wording is objectionable (only differing in citing atheist websites instead of a church).

    I say file a complain over illegal religious discrimination.

  9. 9
    Adam Lee

    On the bright side, this ought to be a slam-dunk discrimination lawsuit.

  10. 10
    fred

    Lind Media Company is obscene and offensive.

  11. 11
    imnotspecial

    There is really no need for this type of controversial bill boards. A nice picture for a background and “Atheists.org” would convey enough.

    I don’t go to my wife’s church’s socials with a big “A” around my neck. They know where I stand because my absence from mass says it all.

  12. 12
    imnotspecial

    Or

    And Jesus said: “Come and see”

    Atheists.org

  13. 13
    Georgia Sam

    More evidence of something I’ve been saying for years: Although we must be vigilant in protecting our First Amendment rights from government repression, in these times the greater threat by far comes from corporations. Corporations stifle free expression more effectively than the government does, and for the most part citizens have no recourse when they do.

  14. 14
    icecreamassassin

    RE: imnotspecial

    What do you think the chance is that the people at those social events you mentioned actually *don’t* get your position. You may be very surprised to discover what, exactly, they think your position is relative to your actual position. I will put (fake, nonexistent) money on the bet that at least one person there simply assumes that you ‘hate god’, at least one person who assumes you are a Catholic that simply doesn’t go to mass (like oh so many), and at least one person who assumes you are of some other religion (if you’re out west, buddhism is popular).

    I really don’t know if the above applies – and I wouldn’t really be surprised if it did *not* – but I’d just be very weary about assuming they know where you stand. And I suspect that it is rather irrelevant anyway, as I imagine debating or talking about deeper issues really isn’t a goal at a social function like that. Just wanted to throw that out there.

    That being said, I suspect it is relatively moot in regards to these billboards – I agree that the likely intended audience for these are primarily atheists who may be interested in knowing organizations like this exist in their vicinity.

  15. 15
    Rob

    The actions of you and your company against midohioatheists is a violation of constitutionally guaranteed free speech.

    ARRRGGGHHH.

    Is the billboard company a utility or the government?

    Is it censorship? Yes.
    Does it violate discrimination laws? Possibly.
    Does it violate the First Amendment? No.

  16. 16
    ParatrooperJJ

    Athiests aren’t a protected class.

  17. 17
    ParatrooperJJ

    It would depend if the group had paid already. In order for a contract to be binding, consideration must have been accepted.

  18. 18
    imnotspecial

    Your assumptions are quite correct, but that was not really my point. I only wanted to say if you are in a christian environment, like Ohio, you might not want to be so much in their face like these bill boards are.

  19. 19
    echidna

    Atheism is classified as a religious position, and is indeed a protected class.

  20. 20
    echidna

    They are not “in your face”. The billboards by AnswersinGenesis are in your face. http://imgur.com/MDSWg

  21. 21
    imnotspecial

    Yes, this is offensive, but aren’t we better then they?

  22. 22
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Not this shit again…

  23. 23
    bad Jim

    Just saying “We’re atheists” is going to give offense to a lot of people. It implies that we think your religious beliefs are wrong.

    Atheists in Genoa wanted to put a poster on buses that read “The bad news is that God doesn’t exist. The good news is that no one needs him”. The bus company refused to run it.

    After some negotiation, they agreed on one reading “The good news is that Zeus doesn’t exist. The bad news is that we can only say that about Zeus”, but balked at including the name of the organization.

    You’d think we could get away with saying “We’re here! We’re godless! Get used to it!” but you’d be mistaken.

  24. 24
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Yes. What’s your point?

  25. 25
    Sam

    Solution: new billboard campaign. It’s called “read your bible” and merely quotes contraversial verses from the bible, showing only the chapters and verses in white text on a black background. Suggestions include:

    Isaiah 45:7
    Samuel 12:11
    Malachi 2:3
    Hosea 13:16
    Samuel 15:3
    Ephesians 5:22
    Peter 2:18
    1 Timothy 2:12
    Judges 19:25-28
    Judges 11:30-1, 34-5

    Thus, no objectionable text is shown, and no billboard company will object to having bible verses put up. Do it through a front organisation, like “Scripture Studies Alliance”. See how long until lulz occur. I’ll leave you to find what those verses say XD

  26. 26
    autumnrook

    The only one I know right off is Timothy 2:12, and I love that idea, though I’d change it to “Read your bible cover to cover.” Off to find out what the others say. :D

  27. 27
    ParatrooperJJ

    Not in Ohio.

  28. 28
    TPRJones

    My personal favorite is Matthew 6:5-8

    Not really controversial, but certainly one I wish more Christians observed.

  29. 29
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