Atheist billboard taken down in Calif. city

Monday, November 24, 2008

Editor's note: The Associated Press reported that the Freedom From Religion Foundation had filed suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Nov. 26 against Rancho Cucamonga for the city's alleged role in the removal of the group's billboard.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — Complaints have led to removal of an atheist group's “Imagine No Religion” billboard in Rancho Cucamonga.

The General Outdoor Advertising Co. took down the Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard on Nov. 20 after the city asked if there was a way to get it removed. Rancho Cucamonga Redevelopment Director Linda Daniels said the city had received 90 complaints.

The 12,000-member Madison, Wis.-based foundation, which advocates separation of church and state, has billboards in eight states that include such messages as “Reasons Greetings” and “Beware of Dogma.”

The incident marks the first time that a Freedom From Religion Foundation billboard “has been censored after going up,” according to a foundation news release. The release said billboard companies had been “unwilling to lease boards” in Rapid City, Mich.; Peoria, Ill.; rural Nebraska and Salt Lake City.

Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor said the city shouldn't be censoring speech. “Are religionists so thin-skinned they must squelch free debate?,” she said in the news release. “One small freethought billboard in the immense state of California is such a threat to insecure religious egos that it must be censored?”

The “Imagine No Religion” message appears in a stained-glass motif.

In September, the city asked another billboard firm to take down a sign concerning a vagina-rejuvenation procedure.

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