First, we have the reaction from church leaders:
The Rev. Waymon Malone ordered it removed, said Carolyn Kelley, his mother-in-law. Malone and his wife, Kimberlee, were out of town today and could not be reached for comment.
“It upset him because of what it said,” Kelley said. “It said we don’t need God, and we’re at church, so we do need God.”
Actually, it said you don’t need god to be good. While it’s true that you don’t need god, period, this particular billboard wasn’t a shot at Christians who believe in superstition.
But I guess the suggestion that there are good people out there who don’t believe in god was enough to freak out Malone. Christian leaders are so damn sensitive these days…
Second, Heagney gets to the bottom of whose fault it is that the atheist billboard went up on church property in the first place:
The billboard was removed days after it was installed on June 21, said Jay Schmidt, account executive for Matrix Media Services.
Schmidt helped the Freedom From Religion Foundation find the billboard locations but didn’t realize that the Galos billboard was on church property. That billboard is visible from Stelzer Road north of Allegheny Avenue, just as Stelzer turns into James Road.
He called it “an unfortunate oversight” by Clear Channel, whose representatives did not return messages seeking comment.
I still don’t understand who owns this billboard and how the payments get split up. If the church owns the billboard space, have they objected to other ads that have gone up there in the past? If so, which ones? Which ones haven’t they whined about? Does Clear Channel have this kind of arrangement with any other private group in the area?
Third, Heagney gets a wonderful soundbyte from Dylan Galos, who appears on the billboard:
Galos, 25, who just earned his master’s degree in public health at Ohio State University, said churches have a right to decide what goes on their property.
Still, “I was a little disappointed that was the reaction they had, that it was so offensive to the congregation they had it moved.”
I love that quotation because he respects the church’s right to do what they want on their own property, while putting the focus on his statement, which no church ought to find objective.
Can you imagine one of those Religious Right blowhards saying something like, “Yes, students have the right not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance”? They may very well believe in the rights of people they disagree with, but I can’t picture them saying that without steam coming out of their ears.
Even though the church had every right not to have this billboard on their property, the fact that they took down this sign — this inoffensive, affirming sign — just shows that they’re not mature enough to handle the fact that non-Christians exist alongside them.
If I were a Christian, that’s not a church I’d ever want to join.