Atheist Billboard in Columbus, Ohio Taken Down After Church Complains June 27, 2011

Atheist Billboard in Columbus, Ohio Taken Down After Church Complains

It was only a week ago that billboards featuring atheists “coming out of the closet” in Columbus, Ohio went up.

Believe it or not, a church complained about one of them — and because of their complaint, the billboard is being moved to another location.

Are you shitting me?!

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which sponsored the ads, can’t believe it, either :

A billboard featuring a cheerful student saying, “I can be good without God,” was too much for the delicate sensibilities of a local church in Columbus, Ohio, which insisted late last week that a local billboard company remove the message.

The billboard picturing Dylan Galos, a Columbus student and atheist, was removed and is awaiting placement at an alternate eastside Columbus location.

“The action of this censorious church shows exactly why our campaign, intended to encourage social acceptance of nonbelievers, is so important,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

Added Dan Barker, a former evangelical minister who co-directs FFRF, “Everywhere atheists and agnostics go, we encounter advertisements, marquees and other proselytizing messages. This is one of the few public advertisements anywhere in the nation right now, and there isn’t room for it next to a church?”

I want to know what church complained and I want to know what the nature of their complaint was. Because I can’t think of a single good reason they could possibly have against this sign. I also want to know which advertising agency took the billboard down because of the complaint — why are they so quick to act when one group of people makes an unnecessary and unreasonable request?

There is absolutely nothing offensive about this billboard. It’s not attacking Christians. It’s not insulting Christianity. It’s Dylan stating that he can be good without god.

Or does that go against everything this church teaches?

It just shows that the mere mention of atheism, and the idea that atheists exist (and we’re good people!), is too much for some Christians to handle.

That’s why we need to keep “coming out of the closet” and asserting our beliefs.

***Update***: The church in question has admitted to having the billboard removed. You can read more about that here.

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  • dj


  • Rainne

    Maybe it’s time atheist groups start complaining about church billboards and demanding that they be removed.

  • Fiddler

    And yet people keep saying that we the ones attacking religion…

  • Marguerite

    Ugh. I agree; this is why those billboards are needed.

  • Yui

    Speech is free in this country – so long as you say things everyone agrees with.

  • What an utterly misguided and foot-shooting reaction.
    Apart from the fact that Christians ought to agree that belief in God is not required to be ‘good’, what a great opportunity to to start a dialogue – and perhaps even ask why it is that we all seem to have an innate moral compass belief or not..
    The response in sydney to the ‘Jesus is a prophet of Islam’ posters (which was a reply poster of ‘hey Aussie Muslims, glad you want to talk about Jesus, let’s chat – Aussie Christians) was a much better model!

  • JD

    I sure hope there’s more to it than just a spineless advertising agency. Is the billboard on property leased from this church? Is the church a major source of revenue for the advertising agency?

  • JulietEcho

    I wonder… if a coffee place complained about the proximity of a billboard advertising a rival coffee business, would they move that?

    I’ve seen plenty of billboards for dentists in my city. Going to the dentist is always anxiety-laden for me. Should I complain and ask they be moved from my usual route?

    There are ads for alcoholic beverages downtown, some of them near a children’s shelter and a homeless shelter. Given how many domestic abuse cases involve alcohol, should those be moved?

    Duh, no, in all those cases. It’s just not feasible for billboard companies to keep everybody happy. There are lots of people out there who find billboards in and of themselves ugly and offensive, and I haven’t heard of a company shutting down to pacify them.

    Just another example of religion getting special privileges in our “we’ve-been-catering-to-Christianity-for-so-long-we-think-we’re-a-theocracy” country.

  • Randy

    This makes me outraged. Please tell me there is going to be a legal response to this??

  • As a student in advertising, I’m a bit doubtful about advertising being a consistently workable medium for this plight. I agree that there should not be a double standard applied, allowing religious organizations to maintain their own advertising while pressuring for the removal of the non-religious. While free speech is protected, we’re not guaranteed protections when advertising is bought from organizations who have to protect their own reputation. It would be nice to see an advertising host stand up for their customers’ rights and their right to protect their profits from their customers’ investments, but I don’t see that happening.

  • Daniel Miles

    It doesn’t surprise me that a church complained, but it *does* surprise me that the complaints had an impact. Who made the decision to remove the billboard? Was it clearchannel? Some part of the official city government of Columbus?

  • Wow. This is WILDLY OFFENSIVE. Imagine if a billboard about Christ’s love went up (um, everywhere)? No one would think for an instant of taking it down just because non-believers complained. Wow, wow, wow.

  • Jason

    I did a little Google maps sleuthing. If it is the church directly adjacent to the billboard, it’s the Christ Cathedral Church ( located at 3350 Allegheny Ave.

    The billboard looks to be adjacent to the far corner of their parking lot. You could easily read the billboard from their front door.

  • Claudia

    Headline: “Church is offended someone is good without being a member”

    Outrageous bigotry. Can you imagine a church demanding a “happy Jew” sign get taken down. They’d be coldly denied by the company, and if they were approved both the church and the company would be piloried in the press.

    But outrageous bigotry is A-OK, as long as you’re doing it to atheists, eh?

  • Jenny Wren

    Of course they complained. It threatens to put chinks in the armor around their fantasy. It might make their congregants resort to thinking for themselves instead of staying on the straight and narrow sheeple path.
    Hopefully, taking it down will draw even more attention and raise more questions. A little Streisand Effect maybe.

  • This censorship is an ipso facto justification of the billboards’ necessity. It is outrageous that some people can be so hypersensitive over a truth-value statement such as that that feel the need to petition its removal.

  • This makes me angry. I’m sure it had something to do the the “without god” in the quote. I wasn’t allowed to use my original quote “Living a purpose filled life without god” on my billboard in Tulsa Oklahoma.
    The billboard company felt that my quote would be to offensive for the Tulsa community.

  • Bendar

    Got to love Ohio. I live about two and a half hours away or I’d drive right over there and give you all the info I could.

  • HairyPorter

    It is against church laws to allow converts to be taken away from the churches larder for the benefit of the common people and not for the prosperity of the church! Didn’t they teach that in school somewhere? Oh yes, that’s right, it was during the “Inquisition!” My how time flies when you’re killing people who don’t subscribe to your train of thought!

  • I live in Columbus and the fact that they took the sign down made me sick. America, and the world for that matter, needs more atheists.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Surely the church isn’t bigoted against atheists, or racist, they must be against hats, beards, or students.

  • HighDesertRat

    I hope that the church of ‘Christians’ that complained are truly following what Jesus said and that they are converting to Judaism, his religion and acceptance of others, but teaching through example and if someone asks.

  • Atheistically Yours

    Make sure when you find out WHO complained, and “accomadated” the church in question, that it gets put ON HERE, so we may all retaliate ON HERE! Perhaps a bit of “on-line reviewing” of the church in question is called for, then some protesting, then some picketing, then SOME MORE BIGGER, MORE FLAGRANT BILLBOARDS!

  • He’s African American. Everybody knows that the only way to keep them from robbing, killing and raping is to make sure they go to church. Just not our church.


  • Snufkin

    Is there anything we can do to help get that billboard back up?

  • New campaign, every time we see a religious billboard, we should call the billboard company and complain. It offends us!

  • This calls for more free speech, in a larger way. So they could see it from the front door of their church. So what? That’s reality out there, folks.

    At least we didn’t amplify some anti-theist speech and blast it out to the neighborhood, and into their ears, while they’re in their living rooms. That would be like church bells.

    This is why we need billboards. Plus I would have a group meeting of Atheists right there where the billboard was. Let them see the horror of the actual people the billboard represents. Let them complain then too. They’ll have to share our diverse nation, one way or another.

  • Henry

    Can you imagine the conversation? “I’d like to complain about the God-hater billboard you guys put up.” Hopefully FFRF will find a plaintiff with standing and sue them.

  • I vote the sign be moved, and then another sign be placed in the same spot that says, “I can be good without Thor.”

  • amber

    Other religions can have thousands of billboards, signs, etc all over the state, but one atheist sign causes problems? GTFO.

  • Rich Wilson

    I’m trying to find the spot on google maps, and I can’t.

    417 James, 140 feet north of Allegheny, west side facing north

    According to the map, north of Allegheny, James becomes Stelzer.,-82.912166&spn=0.013368,0.01929&sll=39.98013,-82.913354&sspn=0.000835,0.001206&gl=us&z=16

    Anyone know?

  • bigjohn756

    Maybe some of it is because he’s a black guy. Can you possibly imagine being black and an atheist at the same time in Columbus, Ohio? “Double their pleasure, double their fun; get double bigotry rolled into one.”

  • Nicoline

    I agree with Hemant, we ought to know which church complained and what the nature of the complaint was. Last I looked, freedom of expression was still guaranteed by the Constitution and not only for people who say what everybody else says!

  • Harrison Hopkins

    Would it be possible for us to get the name of the company that owns the billboard, and contact them in support of leaving the billboard where it is?

  • Bart

    Good without god? That slogan seems to give theists confirmation that Atheists think their god actually exists.

    “Good with no god beliefs” would be more accurate and would not give legitimacy to theism.

  • Matt

    They should start using young boys in the ads. The priests won’t complain about them, they’ll be staring instead.

  • NotYou007

    I have no clue if this is the church or not. Anyone want to call them and ask? I did post on their facebook page asking them if they are the ones responsible.

    Address 3350 Allegheny Ave, Columbus, OH 43209
    Phone (614) 237-9495

    They only have 117 likes so I’m not sure if it is them and if you do view their facebook page you will learn my real name. But I don’t care about that. I’m one of producers of South Park too.

  • I called the church you’re all mentioning. No response. It’s probably closed for the night.

    I sent them an email. If they respond, I’ll post something.

  • YashinNashi

    I hate to nit-pick, but the sign is being relocated not taken down. It’s still bullshit, but I think we need to avoid hyperbole in these matters. It makes it easier for people to dismiss the incident when it turns out to be not as bad as initially thought from the title.

  • Richard Wade

    FFRF should first find out exactly which church complained, and then do two things:

    1. Threaten to sue the billboard company. Demand that the sign be put back up where it was with time added for the time it was down, or that two signs for Dylan are put in other locations for twice as long as the original agreement, for no extra charge.

    2. Have every atheist who participated in the Columbus billboard campaign picket the complaining church every Sunday until Dylan’s billboard is restored. They should all carry the same picket signs: “I too am good without God.”

    Let the congregation get two messages: We can be good without God, and no one has free speech unless everyone has free speech.

  • M. Grier Kidder said it best:

    “Formerly, the church burnt. Now, she boycotts. Her cruelty is regulated by her strength. She reforms when she can’t do worse.”

    Or pulls the “offended” card, as the case may be. And, if burning heretics at the stake comes back into fashion, rest assured, the torches will be carried by the most offended.

  • doglovingirl

    Maybe the new billboard (in front of the church) should read “…but you can’t be good WITH god?”

  • Karen

    From my post on FA’s facebook page: I would love to know the back story behind why the atheist board was relocated. Here is the info about this billboard that I know from my observations. It is next to the parking lot of Christ Cathedral Church In fact, it appears that the billboard may be on church property? It is within the chain link fence surrounding the church. There is also a childcare center, and small medical center directly behind the billboard.I don’t know who actually owns the billboard, or who controls what is put on it. It’s very close to our airport, pretty low income area with trailer park, apartments, warehouses, that sort of thing. The atheist board was replaced with one about adopting pets from shelters.

  • Erp

    We don’t know definitely that it is this church or, if so, who within complained (big difference between the pastor and the church busybody who even most of the church finds too much).

  • NotYou007

    Erp Says:

    June 27th, 2011 at 7:05 pm
    We don’t know definitely that it is this church or, if so, who within complained (big difference between the pastor and the church busybody who even most of the church finds too much).

    That is why I posted on their facebook page asking if they did.

  • Alex

    Of course the churches should be worried. First medicine took away healing of the body, then psychology took away healing of the mind/soul, now neuroscience is taking away morals/ethics. There’s nothing left for their magic to lay claim to.

  • NotYou007

    They just responded to my question.

    Christ Cathedral Church Yes that sign was put up on our property and we demanded that it be removed from OUR property.

  • Kevin S.

    If the billboard company owns the billboard space, they own the billboard space. The ground beneath it is irrelevant.

  • JustAGuy

    You’ve got to be kidding. 1 someone at the billboard company had a good laugh when he placed the ad. 2. To be clear. The Church got paid (indirectly) for the atheist ad?

    LOL all around.

  • Grifter

    Their response seemed kind of testy…

  • This is sickening! I can’t believe one group can just freak out and the billboard gets moved. Obscene.

    Maybe we need to go to church billboards and protest.


  • NotYou007

    Grifter Says:

    June 27th, 2011 at 8:05 pm
    Their response seemed kind of testy…

    I agree but I responded with this.

    Thank you for the response and if it was posted on your private property I respect your right in asking for its removal.

    They responded back with.

    No problem. Thank you

  • Carl Howard

    The only billboards here in Columbus which have EVER offended me, were the ones from televangelist (and Christian Dominionist extremist) Rod Parsley… who is so canny about how the surrounding community hates him, that he deliberately posts his sick billboards only a few days before his events, so that no group can effectively
    organize protests against him.

  • Um, I’m thinking the church only assumed the billboard was on their private property. If it were, wouldn’t they have been asked permission before the billboard was put up? It makes no sense to me. They’re lying about it being on their private property. “A church, lying?” I know, I know.

  • I think that the church did the right thing. Every time a church demonstrates it’s lack of tolerance and disregard for the rights of others to express their views is another nail in the coffin of religion. We’ve no shortage of examples but one more never hurts.

    Also if there a stretch of road in the USA that isn’t within a 100 yards of a church? I may be slightly exaggerating.

  • Bob

    The outrage should be at the billboard company,not the church. The church has the right to complain about whatever they want, as does everyone else in the United States, including Athiests. The billboard company is the party who complied. They also have the right to move their billboard, and if it violates a contract, they can be taken to court. Thats the way shit works, seems to me that people just love to sensationlize stuff like this to be confrontational.

    When I was an athiest/agnostic I didn’t have to point it out to everyone, and when I did mention it I wasn’t ridiculed, it usually was followed by decent conversation. Seems like there is a sect of Athiests that love to be hated, and typically tend to be pompous and full of self-love. Get over yourself, we get it, you’re smarter than everyone.

  • Judy, you may not like this one, but ahhhhhh “I can be good without god” Really?! On a billboard – what moron thought of that stupid slogan and idea? Yah, let’s be like all the other 40 plus “religions” out there and advertise, and then profit and control others with a particular belief/dogma/tenet. Let’s also begin to abuse others with this body of man-made tenets that it appears atheists are beginning to create recently – why? The absolute fact is that good and bad is a matter of perception and necessity, and morals and ethics used or placed upon one another are not universal in law – throughout this always expanding universe. We are at times good because there is less pain in being good, and it usually pleasures us in the end result in some way shape or form. We are evil because of ignorance, fear, or lack of fact or truth – usually. Yah-see, a level or form of evil to some may be good in their belief/ideology (stoning women, forced marriages, racism by tea baggers), so the billboard is moronic because it has nothing to do with man’s primal intentions – more joy and less pain, which should be the atheist code or creed. The great majority of people on this planet understand what true pain is on many different levels, and most understand what pure joy is and can be. What we/non-godly does not believe is that books written by much less educated men thousands or hundreds of years ago have the omniscient authority to dictate how we perceive good and evil. The fact is that without a god we all have the innate ability to do good things to ourselves, each other, and this planet, and/or in many cases do perceptually evil actions to create more joy in our lives as well. The sign should say; I can be good and evil with or without god. That is absolute fact that many will never admit to – sadly. This species is at a major crossroads right now. Many understand me or my perception, and many are wondering then – well, what now? This is a question that must be laid out and answered, or total anarchy will ensue very soon…

  • Christopher Lee

    New billboard:
    The world was created by an old guy with a long beard who does whatever he wants without explaining anything. He demands that the top level of his creation worships and adores him and that they accept without a moment’s thought whatever he makes happen. Anyone who doesn’t follow the rules or tries to think for themselves gets to spend eternity roasting painfully. Got God?

  • Amy Jones

    Hahaha! But you all want to make sure there are no nativity scenes out at CHRISTmas.You want to take “In god we Trust” off money.No prayer in schools. You want to revise history and convince people that this country wasn’t founded by men who believed in God. I can’t count how many complaints I’ve heard from athiests regarding CHRISTian billboards.

    This makes you all indignant? You’re surprised? You are participating in an “in your face” campaign and don’t think people are going to complain? But you can complain all you want about the other side. LOL

  • George

    What has happened to “Freedom of Speech?”

  • Christian

    According to my religion, If you don’t Believe you go to hell. According to you, Nothing that you do matters, no matter what you believe. Christian billboards are trying to save people from eternal torment. Athiest billboards are trying to be spiteful. Do you think its a coincidence it was right by a church?

  • Richard Wade

    Where do you get your information about what atheists think, feel, and do? Do you actually know any atheists closely, and have you actually had long, candid discussions about what they think, feel and do, OR are you simply repeating something you heard some other Christian say, and you are not taking any personal responsibility for checking to see if what you’re saying is actually true?

    I know that checking to see if something you’ve heard in church is actually true is not your strong suit, but you really ought to at least apply the idea when it comes to things you’re repeating about people. Otherwise, you run the risk of committing the sin of bearing false witness by negligently repeating a falsehood.

    …Unless of course according to your religion you think that if you DO believe, you’re going to heaven, and according to you, nothing that you do matters because you DO believe.

    So I’m asking. Does believing get you off the hook for deliberately or negligently spreading lies about folks you don’t even know? If so, I guess you’ll be spending eternity with a lot of liars.

  • AJ

    It DOES go against what the church teaches. If someone can be good without God, therefore a person can get to heaven without God, because all you need to do to get into heaven is to be good. Their point is that NOBODY can be good, therefore we all need God, or we’ll burn in the hellfires. If we can be “good” without God, we don’t need the church, and they become obsolete. It must be tough to be terrified of a billboard…

  • A.

    Or does that go against everything this church teaches?

    Of course. That whole bit in the Bible about free will? That was just a joke. God controls all. Dance, my puppets! Dance!

  • Christian

    @richard wade

    Actually, The majority of my freinds are athiest. About your comment nothing we do matter, Thats true, We’re just trying to make sure you don’t go to hell. We don’t have to, we’re just being kind

  • ACN

    We don’t have to, we’re just being kind

    How magnanimous of you.

  • Richard Wade

    Christian, you say

    Actually, The majority of my freinds are athiest.

    Then I’m puzzled why you would make this very incorrect characterization about atheists:

    According to you, Nothing that you do matters, no matter what you believe.

    To me, and to the many, many atheists whom I know very closely, what we do in this world matters a great deal in this world. We know our actions have consequence with real people in real life. Our acts of kindness are for the here and now. We do “believe,” meaning support and condone, in certain principles such as compassion, fairness, honesty, freedom and respect. We do our best to practice these principles for the sake of this world, not for some consequence in some other world. Unlike the ancient Egyptians and modern Christians, we don’t live our whole lives preparing for an afterlife. An afterlife is not what gives our lives meaning. Our deliberate actions and their consequences in the here and now give our lives meaning.

    If you were to sit down with your many atheist friends and openly listen to them rather than preach to them, maybe you’d discover this.

    Then you say

    Christian billboards are trying to save people from eternal torment.

    A bit of advice: They don’t work. All your threats of hellfire and eternal torture by the Protection Racketeer in the Sky do not cause anyone who is unconvinced of its existence to suddenly become convinced of its existence. Your sales pitch is ineffective. People are attracted to deities that reflect qualities they have inside. Your concept of such a vicious and cruel monster is not a very flattering reflection on you.

    Then you say

    Athiest billboards are trying to be spiteful.

    The billboard in question here says “I can be good without God.” That’s one man talking about himself. There’s nothing spiteful in it at all. It’s not about you or Christians. Despite the so common reaction of rage and loathing that Christians have to such innocuous billboards, not everything that atheists say or do is about Christians. Yet these billboards that merely call out to isolated atheists in the area are frequently vandalized, censored or banned.

    Finally you ask

    Do you think its a coincidence it was right by a church?

    It was not a decision by the atheists who bought the ad. They were not made aware of exactly whose property it would be on. It was a boneheaded oversight by the staff of the billboard company. You can read about it here. As I said, not everything atheists say or do is about Christians.

    In your reply to me, you say

    About your comment nothing we do matter, Thats true, We’re just trying to make sure you don’t go to hell. We don’t have to, we’re just being kind.

    Thank you for answering my question honestly.

    So either negligently spreading untruths about atheists as you are doing because you don’t care to really find out, or deliberately telling lies about atheists as many Christian leaders do, that’s all okay with you, because the damage that does to real people in the real world doesn’t matter, either for you or for them. You have your ticket to heaven, so you can be just as self-righteous, cruel, and ruthless as you please, and you can rationalize it all away because it’s all out of “kindness.”

    Christian “kindness” to atheists is very often thinly disguised cruelty or right-out-there naked hate that comes from fear which comes from ignorance. Do us the kindness of getting to really know us, and letting us have the same basic civil rights that you enjoy, and treating us with the same basic human decency that you expect.

    And whether you write correct or incorrect things about us, please spell atheist with e-i.

  • Christian

    To me, and to the many, many atheists whom I know very closely, what we do in this world matters a great deal in this world. We know our actions have consequence with real people in real life.

    I meant in an eternal view

  • ACN


    Obviously we don’t agree with you on that.

    We don’t believe in heaven, hell, god, or the devil. We don’t believe in a supernatural mind-body dualism that posits an eternal soul distinct from our bodies.

    You’re going to need to substantiate all of these things (god, devil, souls, etc) to make us care about your eternal view.

  • Christian

    The point was, that the reason the billboards are up is because of what we believe. there is no point in making it look like anything else. also, I’m not stupid, I know what atheist believe (or don’t believe)

  • Richard Wade

    Christian, I never said or implied that you are stupid, and I don’t think that you are. I don’t see anything implying that in ACN’s comment either.

    I have been talking about statements you have made about atheists that suggest common misconceptions about our values and our motives for doing things. I’m trying to help you to understand atheists accurately, and nothing more. It’s okay to have misunderstood us. There’s a lot of misinformation out there.

    Atheists’ and Christians’ misconceptions about each other cause awful and completely unnecessary enmity and strife. If we can all get past our resentment and fear, and ask each other about each other rather than make antagonistic assumptions, everyone will be better off for it. Yes, only in the present life. Eternity is your concern.

    My main point is that a focus on an afterlife does not give anyone a moral or ethical license to treat others in a shabby manner in this life. While you personally might not treat people shabbily, many other Christians do, and they justify their behavior with their focus on heaven and their disdain for this world. That is unacceptable, inexcusable, and is a major reason why people are not attracted to Christianity.

    I and my friends have been the recipients of many painful acts of paternalistic “kindness” at the hands of Christians, which really were nothing more than self-righteousness, self-indulgence, and self-aggrandizing at our expense. Their basic justification boils down to “I’m doing this for your own good,” which is what an abusive parent says just before he beats his kids bloody.

    If you learn anything about atheists that does not fit the negative stereotypes and assumptions that you have heard from other Christians, please have the courage to confront and correct them on those misconceptions. Realizing that your beliefs about atheists are incorrect does not have to threaten your beliefs about God.

  • Christian

    Pointing out the obvious was what made it seem like i was being called stupid.

  • Richard Wade

    I see. Well, no insult intended. I apologize for that misunderstanding.

  • ACN

    I’ll echo what Richard said.

    I did intend to be snarky with the “magnanimous” comment.

    However, I didn’t say you were stupid anywhere, and I didn’t mean to imply it anywhere either.

    I wanted to be absolutely clear that we were on the same page with regard to what everyone believes. It sounded to me like you thought the “eternal consequences” route should some sway which us, and for obvious reasons it doesn’t.

  • @Christian,

    Three questions about your beliefs…

    1. If you found yourself in heaven and all the non-Christians were there as well, what would you think about that?

    2. If everybody’s conscious experience ends with the physical end of brain function, then how can you put any stock in what people have written about the afterlife. Isn’t scripture all wishful thinking and speculation?

    3. If your beliefs are true and you end up in heaven in some kind of eternal worship ceremony, how long could you maintain you sanity? At some point any notion of an individual self would have to be dropped. At that point, YOU would be dead.

  • Christian

    1. I’d just figure we had misinterpreted the bible
    2.yes, it is. I’d Actually call that faith or hope. Although many people did talk to god in the old testament
    3. Where does it say that it’s an eternal worship ceremony

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