According to the Grand Rapids Press, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is having trouble renting billboard space to advertise its message "Beware of Dogma" [Atheists claim censorship by billboard company].
The group that asked Hudsonville to remove God from the city's mission statement says it is having a hard time placing a billboard espousing its position.We discussed this issue before when I declared that this was a "freedom of speech" issue [What Freedom of Speech Really Means]. Many readers disagreed , stating that a private company had the right to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs (or lack of them).
"This is new, that a billboard company is censoring us," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The Madison, Wis.-based group, dedicated to the separation of church and state, bills itself as North America's largest group of atheists and agnostics with 12,000 supporters.
The billboard with the words "Beware of Dogma" and the group's Web address has been used around the country, she said.
Gaylor said CBS Outdoor Advertising in Grand Rapids declined to rent a billboard to Freeedom From Religion, telling her it had been through controversy in the past and community reaction would force the billboard down within a day. She is working with other area firms, she said, but their locations are not her first choice.
This time there's a very interesting discussion going on at RichardDawkins.net [ Atheists claim censorship by billboard company]. Read the comments on that site.
This is clearly a gray area but, personally, I'd like to live in a society where a private billboard company wasn't afraid to rent space to all kinds of groups—including those groups whose opinions aren't shared by the management of the company. I'd like to live in a society where everyone understood that this was ethical behavior on the part of the billboard company and they didn't hold the company responsible for the message on the billboard. Even better would be to live in a society where the average person celebrated diversity of opinion and looked forward to seeing and hearing about contrary views. They would also look forward to debating and discussing those views.1
1. In case anyone is wondering whether this can be construed as support for teaching the controversy, the answer is yes. I think Christian private schools should be teaching about evolution and the scientific views on the age of the Earth. I think public school students should be discussing the conflict between evolution and creationism (and science vs. religion).
[Photo Credit: More Billboards in Chambersburg PA]