A week is also how long the billboard managed to stay up, because the company that erected it is now taking it down following a series of complaints.
According to Lamar’s statistics, the south-facing junior poster makes an average of 26,218 impressions a week. The text, printed atop an outline of the state of Nebraska, was set to be on display for a month.
But then several people threatened to stop doing business at the gas station/store, and the sign’s coming down early, according to correspondence between Lamar’s Lincoln general manager and the Lincoln Atheists.
The group was told Tuesday.
“We are grateful for the work Lamar did for us and with us, but we are disappointed that we don’t get an equal platform to share ideas,” said Shawn Capler, marketing director of the atheist group. “I think a group like ours is necessary because not everyone is religious, but I think everyone needs a community. We’d like to think that we provide community for those without any religious beliefs.”
The atheists will get all their money back (including the amount for the week of advertising they received). In case you’re wondering if prematurely taking down the billboard is legal, the short answer is yes.
Scott Morton, general manager of Lamar’s Lincoln branch, said the company must respect the wishes of landowners upon which the company leases space.
Morton said he and the company’s staff consider free speech rights when making decisions on which organizations and companies with which they do business. They also balance those considerations with the possibility that the words on the billboards could offend passersby.
It’s unfortunate that the gas station got caught in the middle of this, but the removal of the billboard makes clear what atheists are up against. Saying that a good life without God is possible was too offensive for the faith-minded people in Lincoln. (An eternity in hell if you disagree with them? I guess that would be okay.)
The billboard was perfectly fine. The whiners were offended by the existence of atheists in their community. This whole incident suggests that there’s nothing they could have put on the sign advertising their group that would’ve been allowed to stay up.
Shawn Capler, the Lincoln Atheists’ marketing director, told me last night:
While Lincoln Atheists understands and respects Lamar’s business decision, collectively we are very disappointed that atheists are not afforded an equal platform in the marketplace of ideas. However, we are not deterred in pursuing our mission.
Anyone hoping to learn more about the group can check out their Facebook page for more information.
(Thanks to Erin for the image)