A group of atheists in Mansfield, Ohio is upset that the landlord of a property on which its "Reason is a virtue" billboard was erected has demanded its removal ahead of the lease's expiration date.
"It kind of makes us sad that people don't want us to put up billboards," said Ron Stephens, president of the Mid-Ohio Atheists. "We're not out to offend anyone."
Stephens said that he was not aware why the landlord, identified as Mark Scheurer by the Mansfield News Journal, complained to Lamar Advertising, the company the secular organization used to promote its billboard. Stephens suspects that it was the nature of the billboard that caused its early removal.
The billboard reads: "Faith is a virtue" but with the word "faith" crossed out and replaced with "reason." The ad went up last month, and was supposed to stay in place until June 3. However, it was removed and replaced by a public service announcement a week early.
A Mid-Ohio Atheists member, identified as Michael on the group's website, said that he found it odd that of the three billboards erected by the group, that anyone would find the "Reason is a virtue" ad most offensive. The group's other two billboards read: "There is no God. Don't believe everything you hear" and "On the first day man created God." Both are reportedly still on display around Mansfield.
"Apparently what people fear the most in Mansfield Ohio is not being told there is no God or that God is an invention of man. No my friends what they fear more than those two messages was a message encouraging the use of reason over faith," Michael wrote.
Mid-Ohio Atheists, an affiliate of the larger American Atheists organization, had a previous billboard rejected altogether in December because the advertising company they pitched it to deemed it too offensive for the community. The billboard depicted Poseidon, Jesus, Satan and Santa Claus as myths.
Lamar Advertising reportedly has promised to issue a refund to the group for the early removal of its billboard.