This story from the Mid Ohio Atheists (via Ophelia Benson, via Greta Christina) is the latest in the ongoing saga of American billboard companies (in this case the Lind Media Company – you can e-mail the Vice President here) impeding free expression by censoring atheist and secular messages:
We spent several weeks exchanging emails, planning locations, and reviewing the graphics for the Billboards. In late October everything was ready to go. They had the final Graphic, had done the mock ups and we had approved them. Everything seemed to be going off with out a hitch and I was extremely pleased with the company.
Fast forward to today, November 22nd 2011. This morning I recieved an email from the Vice President of LIND advising me of [their refusal to honor the agreement]. [...]
I got a little sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. See I’ve always been an out spoken Atheist, as long as I’ve been an Atheist. I’m use to people wanting to talk, argue, or save my soul, but I had yet to ever feel the sting of discrimination. I swallowed the lump in my throat and sent an email back to the Maura S Siegenthaler asking her why they choose to wait till just before the Holiday when we had months of contact with their company and they had our graphics for weeks. I then attempted to call her but was told she was unavailable. The following reply reinforced my initial gut feeling, it really was because we are Atheists spreading an Atheist message.
Please read the full post for more details. After you do, you may want to consider contacting the company to let them know how you feel about this. That’s what I just did.
Below is the text of the e-mail I just sent to Vice President of Lind Media Maura Siegenthaler (firstname.lastname@example.org) in support of the Mid Ohio Atheists. I urge you to write to her as well, and you are welcome to copy my message, change it, or add to what I wrote as you like. More contact info for the company can be found at the bottom of the Mid Ohio Atheists post.
Dear Maura Siegenthaler
I’m writing to urge you and the Lind Media Company to reconsider your last minute refusal to honor your agreement with the Mid Ohio Atheists to put up two of their billboards. As you apparently do not hesitate to put up pro-religion billboards, the only plausible explanations for your action are either fear of backlash from a largely religious community and/or plain and simple bigotry against the non religious.
I hope, at least, it’s only the former.
While as a private business you are certainly within your rights to choose your content, and while you may not agree with non believers, refusing to put up a simple message by a group with a point of view, which harms noone and is a simple exercise in free expression as it pertains to religion, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, is extremely disappointing, disgraceful, and goes directly against the grain of the principles and rights the United States is founded upon.
I do hope you’ll reconsider.