The American Atheists group revealed that it was forced to alter a billboard promoting its 2015 National Convention after the Nashville billboard leasing company rejected its design as "offensive" and "aggressive" for including the words "Easter" and "church."
"The double standard is as ridiculous as it is discriminatory," said American Atheists President David Silverman in a press release.
"Our billboards feature a happy little girl wearing bunny ears. Our convention is, in fact, this April 2-5, which falls on Easter weekend. Is stating this fact what Americans, champions of free speech, find 'aggressive?' This is exactly why we are coming to the Bible Belt — we go where we are needed; it could not be more clear that we are needed here."
The rejected billboard includes the text: "An atheist convention on Easter weekend? Looks like we're skipping church again!"
While the design was approved and the billboard is set to go up in Memphis, for Nashville the atheist group had to change the message to read "Hop over to Memphis for the biggest gathering of atheists in the country" so that it could be approved without being "offensive or aggressive toward another group."
The AA national convention will take place during April 2-5 in Memphis, and is scheduled to feature speeches by human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali; HowStuffWorks.com founder and Discovery Channel host Marshall Brain; memeticist Susan Blackmore, among others.
AA ran a similar billboard campaign during the Christmas holidays in cities such as Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Milwaukee. The billboards featured a young girl writing a message to Santa Claus reading: "Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I'm too old for fairy tales."
In an interview with The Christian Post in December, Silverman said that the ads were aimed at atheists living in mixed households with theists, who feel under pressure to participate in religious activities.
"That little girl on the billboard symbolizes the atheists who go along to get along, attending and possibly tithing a church that preaches a religion in which they don't believe, for no other reason than habit or familial pressure," Silverman told CP at the time.
"We are using these billboards to spur intra-family communication, because we believe the communication is desperately needed," he added.