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Rejected Atheist Ads Will Run in Vancouver Metro

An atheist advertising campaign that was previously rejected by a major billboard company in Canada has found its home in the Vancouver metro system.

The Centre for Inquiry Canada announced Monday that its pro-atheist billboards will adorn two bus shelters in downtown Vancouver as well as a billboard in the city of Burnaby thanks to the help of CBS Outdoor, a billboard company that has agreed to run the atheist organization's advertisements. The atheist group was previously turned down by Canada's biggest billboard company, Pattison Outdoor, which cited industry standards as the reason for the rejection.

"CFI is a voice for millions of Canadians who question the need for religion to live a good, meaningful life," the group's president, Kevin Smith, said in a statement Monday. "We're pleased to bring their message into the public square."

Previously, the atheist organization threatened filing a possible human rights complaint when its billboards were rejected by Pattison Outdoor. "We don't think it's the place of the billboard company to determine what our message should be," CFI spokesperson Pat O'Brien told Canada's Global News. O'Brien also argued that Pattison Outdoor has a monopoly on the majorly-viewed billboard advertising space in Vancouver's downtown area.

The advertisements, which were funded by an anonymous donation of $20,000, replace religious proverbs with secular phrases, urging viewers to depend on themselves instead of religion. For example, one advertisement shows a woman sitting and drinking coffee, while next to her reads the words "Jenn 13:1 … Praying won't help. Doing will." Another billboard reads: "Without God, we're all good."

When Pattison Outdoor previously rejected the advertisements, the company's president, Randy Otto, said in a statement that the advertisements were rejected not due to a freedom of speech issue, but rather because they did not meet company guidelines or national standards. Additionally, Otto said that the company asked the atheist group to make only minor changes to their advertisements, but the group reportedly did not have enough money to make said changes.

"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," Otto said.

Now that its initial advertisements have been accepted by a billboard company, the atheist group is now reportedly planning to continue with a national advertising campaign.

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