American Atheists, one of the nation's largest secular groups, has released its Christmas 2016 billboard ad campaigns in which it uses President-elect Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan to encourage young people to skip church.
The group explained in a press release that its two billboards have been launched nationwide, and aim to celebrate an "atheist Christmas" and tackle what it called the stigma that nonbelievers face in America.
"It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe — and don't believe — is the best gift you can give this holiday season," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. "More and more Americans are leaving religion, but we still have work to do when it comes to fighting the stigma many atheists face."
The first billboard, which will be displayed throughout December in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Georgetown, South Carolina, depicts a text message exchange between two young women, with one declaring that she "no longer believes" in going to church, and that her parents will "get over it."
The group pointed to a survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute in September which showed that nearly one in four, or 39 percent of young people aged 18–29 in the U.S. are now religiously unaffiliated.
AA's second billboard, which will be displayed in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Shreveport, Louisiana, uses Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan by calling on atheists to skip church.
The secular organization reacted to Trump's victory in the presidential race in November by declaring it will continue fighting for religious freedom.
"It is my sincere hope that Mr. Trump will recognize the obligation he has to protect the constitutional separation of religion from government that our founders envisioned and act according to the will of the people he now represents. Likewise, I call on all members of the U.S. Senate and House to reject the use of religion to divide us as a nation or as a way to decide public policy," Silverman said as part of his response to the news of Trump's victory at the time.
AA has called on people to "skip church" in a number of its previous holiday billboards, with Silverman telling The Christian Post back in December 2014 that the hope is for the messages to "spur intra-family communication."
Nick Fish, national program director for the group, said in the latest press release that the only way to remove stigma is to "show our friends and family that we are the same kind, loving and compassionate people they've always known us to be."
"This billboard campaign will be a starting point for that conversation in communities where atheists don't always have a voice," he added.