Tag Archive: ohio


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 (mss@lindoutdoor.com) 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.

Writing for the Christian Post, Joseph Perkins just put out an alarmist “Fear the atheists!” piece of tripe featuring the headline, “Ohio Church Under Attack by Atheist Group“.

Right off the bat, the poor, helpless Christ Cathedral Church is the innocent little victim “under attack” by the mean, bullying Freedom From Religion Foundation bad guys.

The most important thing to keep in mind through this story (and Perkins’ take on it) is that the opening “blow” in this “attack” was a simple exercise of freedom of speech by the FFRF, which was not specifically directed as a criticism of any particular church or religion at all.

It was, instead, a billboard with a very inocuous, positive atheist message reading:

“I can be good without God.” -Dylan Galos, Columbus student … atheist

If Perkins considers this to be an “attack”, he may be in need of a better dictionary.

Moving on, he begins his lament:

When Christ Cathedral Church in Columbus, Ohio had an atheist billboard removed from its property back in June, it thought it had heard the last from the billboard’s sponsor, the so-called Freedom From Religion Foundation.

By at once acknowledging that Christ Cathedral engaged in trying to censor (which is to say, restrict the freedom of speech of) the FFRF, while also  using the negative “so-called” epithet to imply that working to attain freedom from religion is unnecessary and/or not the true function of the FFRF, Perkins completely fails to grasp the irony of his own contradiction. Censorship by a religious institution is religion curtailing freedom, so the FFRF is doing the necessary, and living up to their name.

He proceeds to his second paragraph:

But the [FFRF] found another way to attack the church. It sicked the Franklin County, Ohio Auditor’s Office on Christ Cathedral, claiming that the church was required to pay property taxes on the land on which the billboard stood, because it was used for commercial purposes.

“Claiming”? Sorry, but it’s the law. Chapter 5709.07 of the Ohio State tax code, titled “Exemption of schools, churches, and colleges”, states it quite clearly:

(A) The following property shall be exempt from taxation:
[…]
(2) Houses used exclusively for public worship, the books and furniture in them, and the ground attached to them that is not leased or otherwise used with a view to profit and that is necessary for their proper occupancy, use, and enjoyment [my emphasis]

So, in just one headline and two short paragraphs, Perkins has already shown indifference to freedom of speech, brushed off the notion that freedom from religion is a valid pursuit (even while providing an example of religion attempting to restrict freedom), and displayed disdain for the law requiring religious institutions to pay taxes on profitable property.

I’d continue deconstructing Perkins’ petulant complaints line by line, but it would be much too tedious. However, I can’t overlook one more assertion he makes further down:

The billboard featured the smiling image of a local college student proclaiming the atheist message: “I can be good without God.” It seemed more than coincidental to some that the pictured atheist student was black, just like Christ Cathedral’s pastor.

Even after overplaying the hurt feelings card so heavily thus far, he just can’t help jumping the shark and leveling a false insinuation of racism.

I would say that Joseph Perkins should be ashamed of himself, but he obviously has no shame to begin with.

You can read the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s news release and see a picture of the billboard at their website here.

Tax the churches.

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