We have responded to State Senator Andrew Lanza’s hateful announcement by putting up another billboard in Lanza’s own district (Staten Island). The billboard is a digital board and went up late Wednesday night.
On December 13, Senator Lanza issued a press release expressing his outrage at the group’s Times Square message, calling the billboard “hate speech” and “religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust” and even called for a boycott of businesses in Times Square. The digital billboard, a fifteen-second animation, begins with “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” The animation continues with “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas,” and a word cloud including traditions such as family, friends, food, and charity. The animation ends by wishing “Happy Holidays” from American Atheists.
In his release, the senator also called for the revocation of the 50-year-old nonprofit organization’s 501(c)(3) IRS tax-exempt status, saying that he “doesn’t believe that tax dollars should be used to spew religious hatred.”
“Senator Lanza seems to be unaware that there are millions of atheists right here in New York,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “He accuses us of spewing religious hatred while he himself calls all atheists ‘malicious’ and ‘hateful’ for not believing in his god. We will not be silenced or smeared by a bigoted elected official, nor will we allow our members and the other tens of millions of American atheists to be slandered by a representative of our own government.”
“Lanza had no problem calling for a boycott of Times Square because of our message,” Silverman continued. “We stand behind our billboard and we want the people of Staten Island to know that they don’t need religion to have a great Christmas, either. We are putting up this billboard as a challenge to Senator Lanza. Now the question is, was the senator posturing, or does he have the guts to call for a boycott in his own district?”
Lanza’s non-profit status threat against American Atheists comes just months before the organization’s annual national convention, to be held Easter weekend in Salt Lake City for 2014. American Atheists’ 40th National Convention will feature such speakers such as NFL star Chris Kluwe, Survivor®: Philippines grand prizewinner Denise Stapley, Grammy-nominated Spin Doctors bass player Mark White, Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Maryam Namazie of the Council of Ex-Muslims, popular bloggers PZ Myers and Greta Christina, and American Atheists President David Silverman. The convention will also feature a costume party, live music, stand-up comedy, an art show and silent auction, national and local exhibitors, and childcare options for attending families. The convention takes place April 17-20, 2014.
AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) organization that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of religion and government; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.