(Photo: Freedom From Religion Foundation)
An atheist group’s “Out of the Closet” billboard campaign in Ohio ran into a snag when one of its seven signs posted in Columbus was removed from a church property last week.
The Clear Channel Outdoor billboard was placed on the grounds of Christ Cathedral Church and immediately drew the ire of the church’s pastor. The Rev. Waymon Malone successfully had the sign removed just days after it was displayed.
The billboard features a smiling image of Dylan Galos and accompanied with the words "I can be good without God." The sign campaign is part of a nationwide effort by the Freedom From Religion Foundation to “encourage social acceptance of nonbelievers,” the foundation states.
The campaign also features online entries available at the FFRF site for non-believers to enter their quotes and short bio. The foundation then selects the entries to be used on its billboards. The Ohio campaign billboards are scheduled to be in place for one month.
The billboard from the Christ Cathedral Church property was relocated earlier this week.
Malone ordered the billboard removed because he was upset with the content of the billboard, said his mother-in-law, Carolyn Kelly, in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. "It said we don't need God, and we're at church, so we do need God," she said. Malone could not be reached for comment.
FFRF did not know the billboard was on church land, according to local news reports. The Madison, Wisc.-based group has kept its members frequently updated about the Ohio campaign and billboard relocation on its website.
“The action of this censorious church shows exactly why our campaign, intended to encourage social acceptance of nonbelievers, is so important,” stated Annie Laurie Gaylor, who is the FFRF co-president. “Do its deacons truly believe one can’t be good without God?”
FFRF has had several billboard campaigns in the last few years, often stirring controversy within the communities they are placed. The “Out of the Closet” campaign began in Madison last fall and has also been in Raleigh, N.C., and Tulsa, Okla.
Incorporated in 1978, FFRF describes itself as an association of freethinkers, including atheists, agnostics and skeptics. The group claims more than 16,500 members nationwide.