An atheist group in Canada has claimed that a Vancouver billboard company has violated their human rights by refusing to run advertisements carrying "No God" slogans in the city's downtown area.
The Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFI) plans to put ads featuring a young woman with the words, "Praying won't help. Doing will" and "Without God, we're all good," in downtown Vancouver. However, Pattison Outdoor, the billboard company they contacted, says the adverts do not meet their guidelines.
"We made every effort to avoid this situation by making the ads as soft and as gentle as possible," Canada's Global News quoted CFI spokesperson Pat O'Brien as saying. "We just promote our particular world view, which is a humanistic, secular world view," he said, claiming their message is meant to be pro-secular, not anti-religion.
O'Brien said the billboard company, which has a monopoly on all the high-traffic outdoor space in downtown Vancouver, has asked them to redesign the ads, but they cannot afford to do so.
"What they asked us to do was come back with a redesign and they would consider that," O'Brien said, according to CTV News. "We don't think it's the place of the billboard company to determine what our message should be."
The secular ad campaign is funded by an anonymous donation of $20,000, and the group has been asked by the donors to use the money only towards lacing the billboard in the downtown area.
The atheist groups says it might file a human rights complaint or explore other legal options, given that it managed to get a 2009 nationwide ban on its ads overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the ban was a violation of freedom of speech.
Pattison Outdoor says it is not a freedom of speech issue.
"We're not banning them from running their ad. It's not a freedom of speech issue, it's simply that we have guidelines in our company in regards to advocacy advertising which we try to follow," the company's president, Randy Otto, was quoted as saying. "They refused to make any changes to the copy whatsoever," he added, pointing out that his company needs advocacy groups to clearly identify themselves and allow readers to contact them.
CFI, which claims the ads have the organization's full name and website address, might contact other advertising agencies if a legal suit would likely prevent them from putting the ads in time for their year-end fundraising.