The Truth Hurts - Again


The Truth Hurts – Again

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — It looked harmless enough, but the words on a billboard un-nerved so many people that a popular restaurant nearby actually lost business.

The billboard was on Colonial Drive near the Old Cheney Highway. Although the popular Straub’s Seafood restaurant often advertises on it, this wasn’t their billboard. The sign was taken down after Channel 9 started asking questions.

The billboard came down around 4:00 Friday afternoon and nearby business owners are relieved. Straub’s restaurant can replace the sign with the night’s specials.

At first glance the sign looked like a children’s cartoon, but the message next to the fairy princess stirred emotions.

"When you condemn all religions and say they are a fairytale that is wrong," said Rich Stormes, a nearby business owner.

The billboard went up a week before Easter and business at the restaurant went down.

"Easter Sunday is usually a busy good day," said John Russel, an employee at Straub’s. "Easter Sunday business was down by two thirds."

Since it’s so close, John Russel’s customers thought the restaurant paid for the billboard. To clear any confusion up, Russel put up a sign of his own and called MediaNet, the company who owns the billboard.

"It’s been causing us some problem. I think it’s causing a bit of controversy city wide. People have been contacting the media," Russel added.

MediaNet said it had no idea the sign was there and someone put it up illegally in the middle of the night.

Nearby business owners said they weren’t buying it.

"They should have known what was going up on the billboard. He should proof it. He had to proof it," Stormes stated.

The billboard rents for $1,400 a month. If an anti-religious group paid to rent it legitimately there is not telling how long it would have been up.

Orange County does not regulate messages on billboards. They are protected by free speech.

Yes, the words on the billboard "un-nerved" people. Oooh, poor babies. In that case, then the sign must come down.

Except, this is America. As the article acknowledged, free speech is guaranteed by the constitution. It’s not optional. I’m sure someone paid for the sign to be there. The sign wasn’t obscene, in poor taste, or even defamatory to any particular religion or group. It was simply political speech–a statement of opinion. Could residents have just ignored the sign and waited until the rental period expired? Put up their own? Made an argument or produced some evidence in support of their religions?


Instead, they succumbed to the refuge of all weak ideologies–whining and censorship. It only bothered them because at some level, they know it’s true, and can’t stand the implications. They ought to be ashamed…

Comments (13 comments)

Karen / March 30th, 2008, 2:12 am / #1

Clearly the sign was hurting at least one nearby business (though for the silliest of reasons!) and maybe that was a good reason to take it down. If the restaurant had rented the billboard in the past, maybe associating it with the restaurant wasn’t such a farfetched assumption.

I suppose I can even understand not wanting to patronize a restaurant where the management holds beliefs you adamantly disagree with, even if they have nothing to do with food, hygiene, ambiance, etc. I myself have refused to patronize certain establishments when I knew they were big supporters of political causes I disagree with. Why add to their profit when it impacts my cause(s)?

So this mostly strikes me as a case of right message, wrong location. Free speech that has unintended negative consequences for innocent bystanders isn’t necessarily ethically right.

Liquid Egg Product / March 30th, 2008, 10:10 am / #2

The businesses requested the sign’s removal, because they were losing money and were interested in self-preservation. To call this straight-up censorship is a bit of misrepresentation.

Does the sign come down if this was a highway billboard? Doubt it.

BlackSun / March 30th, 2008, 1:51 pm / #3

Karen and LEP,

I’m not buying it. Many billboards are not owned by the buildings on which they are mounted. They are owned by media companies who rent them out. The businesses or building owners get a flat fee from the sign company. It’s contractual, they have no say in the matter. If it wasn’t for Christian privilege, this sign would never have come down. Obviously, someone made phone calls and applied undue pressure on the sign company–which then denied it was even involved! Billboards just don’t appear. People don’t put them up in the middle of the night. They are 48 feet long, and 16 feet high. It costs hundreds of dollars just to print out the vinyl.

Let’s turn the tables. Say I as an atheist owned the building, and there were church ads on the billboard. I would have no right to tell them to take them down no matter how much I disliked their message.

Once you start regulating the location of free speech, or allowing people to apply pressure to get what they don’t like muzzled, you don’t really have free speech.

Question: what WOULD you consider unacceptable censorship?

mikespeir / March 30th, 2008, 4:40 pm / #4

If it wasn’t the government telling them to take it down, it wasn’t censorship. Not, at least, the kind the Constitution protects against.

Friendly Atheist » Blunt Billboard / March 30th, 2008, 6:13 pm / #5

[…] The original article from WFTV news is no longer up but the full reprint is available at Black Sun Journal. Technorati Tags: atheist, atheism Share This Popularity: unranked [?] […]

Engineer-Poet / March 30th, 2008, 10:20 pm / #6

Totally OT, but Sean, is there any reason why the comments have to be in so much smaller print (and a narrower column) than the article?  It makes things difficult to read, especially on Internet Exploiter.

BlackSun / March 30th, 2008, 10:21 pm / #7

Hi E-P,

My webmaster is supposed to be fixing that. :-)

steve / March 31st, 2008, 9:19 am / #8

Get the facts before you voice an opinion. The fact is that resturant was being blamed/accused of putting that sign up by many folks. The manager (me) spent many hours on the phone and in person telling people we had nothing to do with it. Put up what u want, i dont care. But it is wrong to be falsely accused. If you have the nuts to do it , have the nuts to man up to it. Was it fair that i had to deal with this aggrivation. Was it right for the company who owned it to deny it? To make it even look like maybe I was lying. Again many turns to this story. Dont always try to go the us against them route. Believe what you want

Michael Dorian / March 31st, 2008, 9:57 am / #9

Something fishy here, for sure, about the billboard. But whatever the case about how it got up there is, this is certainly another example of how the godlovers in this country get preferential treatment. The old “squeakiest wheel” syndrome…

BlackSun / March 31st, 2008, 9:59 am / #10


I’m sure it was a hassle, and I don’t envy your position. It’s also very strange that the sign company didn’t own up to what happened.

That’s ridiculous.

I’d love to know the back story. Someone rented and paid for that sign. Failing to own up to it makes them seem cowardly–which also kind of defeats the purpose. It doesn’t do much good to send a strong message if you aren’t willing to stand behind it.

Billboard Lover / May 13th, 2008, 8:22 pm / #11

Hmmm, Let me get this straight… The restaurant knows how to contact the billboard company because they did business with them in the past and the restaurant also knows exactly when the sign went up; the restaurant claims that business went down immediately and that they were harrassed because people thought that the sign (which is located on the neighbors property) was put up by the restaurant; and yet, the restaurant waited for over one week until the Friday after Easter Sunday to make the first attempt to contact the billboard comapany about the sign.

That’s right, the restaurant had the phone number of the billboard company all along but they waited until there was a TV camera in their restaurant, FIVE DAYS after Easter Sunday, before they bothered to call the billboard company. And the restaurant wants everyone to believe that they were so upset over the sign, I don’t believe them !

Black Sun Journal » Why I Moderate Comments / May 17th, 2008, 12:03 am / #12

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PhillDoc / October 21st, 2009, 12:47 pm / #13

Nice article as for me. It would be great to read more about this theme.

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