They Can Dish It Out, But They Can’t Take It
A billboard with the message "Imagine No Religion" is no more.
Sign company General Outdoor removed the sign by the Freedom From Religion Foundation on Thursday after it received a request by Rancho Cucamonga to do so.
According to Redevelopment Director Linda Daniels, City Hall had received 90 calls of complaint since Wednesday.
"We contacted the sign company and asked if there was a way to get it removed," Daniels said.
The billboard — which went up last week on the southwest corner of Archibald Avenue and Foothill Boulevard — is part of a national billboard campaign by the Wisconsin-based group advocating the separation of church and state.
The foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said the billboard is meant to encourage a debate on religion by using the John Lennon-inspired message.
Gaylor was shocked over the city’s role in the billboard’s demise.
"The city has no business suggesting our billboard be censored," Gaylor said. "They’re not allowed to interfere over religious controversy."
My letter submitted to Rancho Cucamonga via the Atheists United web form. Please speak out on this if you haven’t already.
Dear Sir or Madam,
I’m outraged that the city of Rancho Cucamonga saw fit to suppress not just speech, but paid speech.
Non-believers have to put up with crosses and other religious symbols literally everywhere in the public space. Are the churches of Rancho Cucamonga that powerful and thin-skinned that they have no other response to a positive secular message than censorship?
The message on the billboard was a quote from John Lennon. It’s from one of his most famous songs. Would you have banned the ad if it had showed a picture of him? He’s one of the most famous non-religious musicians of the modern era. Yet he is loved and admired for his messages of peace and understanding. I’m a humanist as well, and I don’t believe we need religion to make moral progress. In fact I feel exactly the opposite. So for me and at least 15% of your city’s population who are non-believers, "Imagine no Religion" is a message of hope.
It reflects very badly on your city that you would take down this billboard. If it had said "God Loves You," you would have let it stand. This is an improper use of public authority of which you should be ashamed.
I ask you to issue a public apology to the community for this inexcusable trampling of civil and Constitutional rights.
UPDATE 11.26.08: Despite strenuous denials by the city that they requested the billboard be removed, FFRF has now sued Rancho Cucamonga.