Nashville, TN—On Monday, American Atheists announced a two-city billboard campaign in Tennessee promoting its 2015 National Convention during April 2-5 in Memphis at the historic Peabody Hotel. The two billboards are radically different because the Nashville billboard leasing company rejected two designs as “offensive” and “aggressive” for including the words “Easter” and “church.” The Memphis billboard, featuring the original design, was approved without issue. Both billboards will run for one week.
“The double standard is as ridiculous as it is discriminatory,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “Our billboards feature a happy little girl wearing bunny ears. Our convention is, in fact, this April 2-5, which falls on Easter weekend. Is stating this fact what Americans, champions of free speech, find ‘aggressive’? This is exactly why we are coming to the Bible Belt—we go where we are needed; it could not be more clear that we are needed here.”
Each submitted billboard design featured the same young girl featured in the organization’s Christmas billboards, which sparked a three-round “billboard war” with Tennessee-area believers in December.
The first submitted design read “An atheist convention on Easter weekend? Looks like we’re skipping church again!”—a throwback to the organization’s Christmas billboards in five cities where the girl writing to Santa said “All I want for Christmas is to skip church.” The Memphis billboard company approved the design.
The Nashville billboard company refused it, and also refused a modified resubmission, stating that the words “Easter” and “church” could not be shown on the billboard and that only a design promoting atheist beliefs “without being offensive or aggressive towards another group” would be approved. The approved design reads “Hop over to Memphis for the biggest gathering of atheists in the country!”.
The American Atheists 2015 National Convention, April 2-5 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, will feature keynote human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, featured speakers HowStuffWorks.com founder and Discovery Channel host Marshall Brain and memeticist Dr. Susan Blackmore, comedians Trace Bealieu and Frank Conniff of the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and more.
For the exact location of the billboards, downloadable images for redistribution, and the most up-to-date version of this press release, visit atheists.org/news. American Atheists grants permission to news outlets to reproduce and reidistribute these images under the conditions that 1) the images are not cropped, edited, layered over, manipulated, or adjusted in any way, except to resize as necessary without cropping, and 2) that American Atheists is credited for providing the images in a disclaimer.
AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit 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 was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
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