- (Photo: Freedom From Religion Foundation)
A secularist organization has launched a billboard campaign to encourage Catholics to "Quit the Church" due to the Roman Catholic Church's stance on the contraception mandate.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has put up billboards, including a 14 x 48 foot one in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas earlier this month.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, told The Christian Post that the billboard campaign would not gain support.
"It is offensive, fortunately so offensive that serious people cannot take it seriously," said Walsh.
"Unfortunately, anti-Catholicism lies close to the surface in America. However, with critics like these, we must be doing something right."
In response to the many Catholic organizations and dioceses whthat have sued the federal government over the HHS mandate on contraception coverage, the FFRF opted to erect billboards calling for people to leave the Catholic Church.
The foundation picked the Dallas-Ft Worth area for their large "Quit the Church" billboard due to the Dioceses of Dallas and Fort Worth being among those that have filed suit against the Obama administration.
"We don't think most Catholics, especially the 98 percent of Catholic women who use contraceptives at some point in their lives, support the bishops' war against contraception," said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, in a statement.
"It's time for them to stop supporting an oppressive institution."
Jeff Field, director of Communications for the Catholic League, told CP that the foundation's efforts are being done because "they despise religion."
"Militant atheists, such as those at FFRF, are leading the charge of anti-Catholicism today. They claim that the bishops want to impose their dogma on all people. They couldn't be more wrong," said Field.
"Grant our institutions the same protections they have received all along and don't force them to provide services which are contradictory to our basic beliefs."
The "Quit the Church" billboards in Texas and elsewhere are not the only means through which FFRF is attempting to garner support for their efforts. FFRF has also widely syndicated a 30-second ad featuring former Saturday Night Live cast member Julia Sweeney.
"I'm a 'cultural Catholic,' I'm no longer a believer and I even wrote a play about it," said Sweeney in the ad, which will air on multiple cable channels during the weekend.
"Right now, Catholic bishops are framing their opposition to contraceptive coverage as a 'religious freedom' issue, but the real threat to freedom is the bishops."
Regarding the claims by some that the Catholic Bishops are opposed to women's advancement, Sr. Mary Ann Walsh told CP that outside of clerical positions Catholic institutions abound with female leadership.
"If you can put the theological issue of ordination of women off the table, you will find the Catholic Church has a long history of women in top positions," said Walsh.
"You'll find them today leading chanceries, schools, hospitals and other agencies of the Catholic Church. In the United States, women are credited with building the Catholic school and hospital systems."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation's ad campaign comes as the lawsuits by Catholic groups against the HHS mandate continue to be heard in court.
The Dallas-Ft. Worth billboard will remain up for a month. The same billboard was also posted in St. Louis, Mo., and Times Square in New York City.