- (Photo: South Dakota Coalition of Reason)
A South Dakota organization has placed seven billboards across several cities inviting those who do not believe in God to "join the club." The installation of all signs was completed this week with the purpose to announce the official launch of the Coalition for Reason, an alliance of seven non-theistic groups throughout the state aimed at reaching out to secular freethinkers.
"The main goal of these billboards is to let them know that they're not alone. Not only are they not alone in this conservative state, but there are groups that they can join to meet like-minded individuals," said Amanda Novotny, president of Siouxland Freethinkers, to The Christian Post.
The ad campaign is part of a nationwide program started by the United Coalition of Reason in 2009 that has spread to 33 states and the District of Columbia. The billboards are also designed to raise awareness that atheists do exist in South Dakota.
"We're your friends and family; we're people that you already know," said Novotny.
According to a study released by the Pew Research Center this year, 20 percent of adults in the U.S., including one-third of those aged 18 to 30, have no religious affiliation. In South Dakota, the seven non-theistic groups intend to make the figure visible as they continue to affirm their godless affiliation through their efforts in their state.
Although a few of the groups have been established for years, they decided to partake in the state-wide ad campaign because it was perfect timing, according to Novotny.
"We specifically chose this time of year because it would not only benefit the community groups, which could really do the launch any time of year, but the Secular Student Alliance groups since school is starting in the next week or two," she said.
Novotny also told CP the responses to the billboards have been generally positive.
"We have felt a lot of support, either from people that share the same world view, or people that understand that one of the things that make America so great is freedom of speech. These billboards have sparked a lot of discussion, which is great," said Novotny.
Churches in the areas near the signs have not voiced concern over them yet, according to Seth Sundstrom, head pastor for The Crossing church in Sioux Falls.
"I've not heard anything," said Sundstrom, reports Argus Leader, a Sioux Falls news outlet.
However a few state residents disagree with their message.
"It's heartbreaking to see that, just because that would be a really empty philosophy to live by," said Jeremy Brown, of Sioux Falls, to Argus Leader. "There is tons of actual proof that is real and exists that can be backed up by science that there is a God and He exists."
The billboards, which cost $11,148, were funded by the United Coalition of Reason along with funds from an anonymous local donor and will remain up through Sept. 15.