A church’s billboard in Dallas, Texas was taken down after it became the subject of numerous complaints. The sign, promoting a conference thrown by Pastor Robert Jeffress, said “America is a Christian Nation,” a message that didn’t sit well with the diverse Dallas community.
Let me check with my rabbi. pic.twitter.com/6ODOXLB5Y2
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) June 6, 2018
The Metroplex Atheists have already planned a protest outside the church this weekend, stating that we don’t live in a “Christian nation” in any meaningful sense of the phrase:
— Metroplex Atheists (@MetAtheists) June 15, 2018
The idea that America is a Christian nation is a myth and spreads an exclusionary false message that creates division in our country. The United States is a free nation founded on a secular Constitution that includes freedom of religion. This embodies unity and diversity for both believers and non-believers.
Not just atheists should be concerned about this as Jeffress has a history of hateful statements about Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, and Hindus. His narrow definition of “Christianity” seems to only include those he personally judges as politically and religiously worthy.
If atheists were the only ones pushing back, I doubt anything would happen, but these billboards found opposition from Mayor Mike Rawlings as well as a piece in the Dallas Morning News by columnist Robert Wilonsky.
Deep history is behind the words on that billboard — a library full of argument. But all I saw Wednesday [when I drove past the billboard] was someone telling me and everyone else who does not worship Jesus Christ that we do not belong here.
“That is not the Christ I follow,” the mayor of this city said Thursday. “It’s not the Dallas I want to be — to say things that do not unite us but divide us. I never heard those words, that voice come out of Christ. Just the opposite. I was brought up to believe: Be proud of yours, but do not diminish mine.“
The billboard company that put up the signs, Outfront Media, eventually took them down, calling them “anger provoking” (as opposed to “thought provoking”) in a statement to the church.
That’s not some abridgment of free speech; billboard companies and private and they frequently reject or take down signs. They have every right to do so if their placement creates a problem for the community and the company.
According to the Independent Journal Review, the church offered an alternative to no avail:
Following Outfront Media’s decision to take down the billboards, the Dallas-based megachurch offered to recast the verbiage on the signs into a question: “Is America a Christian Nation?” But the advertising company was not interested in keeping the signs up.
Jeffress himself respected the decision to remove the signs, but said it was a dangerous precedent:
“It should greatly concern people of any faith when those in the press or government proactively seek to defeat, censor, or silence any religious message with which they disagree,” he said. “I would not object to someone placing a billboard that said, ‘America is NOT a Christian Nation’ or ‘America is a Muslim Nation.’”
Maybe he wouldn’t object to the placement, but he also wouldn’t stop whining about them, as he did in 2014 in response to an atheist group’s holiday sign.
I don’t have any problem with the sign staying up or coming down. But, like the Metroplex Atheists say, the problem is the message itself. It’s false, it’s exclusionary, and it sends the implicit message that only Christians are welcome in this country. (Not all Christians, either. Just the ones Jeffress deems sufficiently faithful.)
That myth needs to be countered, since Jeffress and his fellow conservatives are going to perpetuate it with or without a billboard.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)