A controversial billboard comparing Jesus to Satan and Poseidon that was about to go up in Mansfield, Ohio, has been rejected a day before its scheduled release, upsetting a prominent atheist group.
The billboard carries the message “37 Million Americans know MYTHS when they see them,” and asks: “What myths do you see?” On the side it depicts images of Greek God Poseidon, Santa Claus, Satan in a business suit, and Jesus Christ, suggesting they are all in the same category of myth.
Three different versions of the billboard are posted on the American Atheists website, the organization that put the project together.
American Atheists was founded in 1966 and describes itself as “the premier organization laboring for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion.”
The first billboards went up on the side of the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey on Dec. 11. A local Christian leader told The Christian Post at the time that the billboard was “ignorant and vulgar,” and said that it demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the conventions of world literature.
“Jesus is different. Only the most dense and simple-minded person would put him in the same category as the other three. Clearly, even those who lack a personal commitment to Jesus recognize that there was in fact some historical figure by this name -- religious leader and teacher -- around 2,000 years ago,” the pastor, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in an email earlier this month to CP.
Mid Ohio Atheists, which is an affiliate of American Atheists, is reported to be upset with the decision and insists that Lind Media Company, which rejected the ads, made no attempts to work with the organization to see if any changes could be made to the posters for approval, the Mansfield News Journal shared.
Ron Stephens, president of Mid Ohio Atheists, declared in a statement: “All three billboards were rejected without any effort on the part of Lind to accommodate us or ask for revisions in either content or billboard location. This shows that Lind's upper management was not willing to work with us at all.”
Blair Scott, communications director for American Atheists, added that he believes it is a case of discrimination, since the media company has put up other “offensive” billboards without hesitation:
“The fact that they think our billboard is too offensive to the population while putting up offensive billboards by Christian groups speaks volumes to their prejudice.”
Lind Media Company said that the content of the poster was intentionally shocking and was not in the best interest of the community, according to the Mansfield News Journal. Maura Siegenthaler, vice president of Lind, explained that the company’s fears are that the ads would have a negative effect on children:
“Most concerning to us, as residents of the City of Mansfield and as a local, family-owned company, would be the effect on families and young children in seeing this message.”
Siegenthaler elaborated: “While we hold freedom of speech in high regard, we realize that our billboard network is a powerful commercial and community service platform that must operate in the best interest of the communities that we serve. Additionally, as a privately owned company, we also hold dear our constitutional right to accept and reject content that we deem inappropriate.”