Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Billboard Censorship

 
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.

"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.
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 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]

5 comments :

  1. 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.

    I'd like to live in that society, too. Since it appears highly unlikely that we are in such a society now, how do you think we should go about changinge the society we live in to better fit those goals?

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  2. I consider that billboard to be hate-speech against atheists. I wonder if, in Canada, it would be illegal? (Not that I'm supporting our hate-speech laws)

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  3. ¸"I consider that billboard to be hate-speech against atheists. I wonder if, in Canada, it would be illegal? (Not that I'm supporting our hate-speech laws)"

    I'm not sure, but I think that in Canada hate speech is permitted when it's in the name of religion (!!!!). I remember when the government talked about considering anti-homosexual speech to be hate speech, the religious started panicking and the government said that if it (the hatred) was religiously motivated, it would be ok. By the way, anyone knows if the bill passed?

    Robert M.

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  4. Yes, beware of dogma, specially that which disguises itself as "science", but fails to provide any confirming scientific evidence, rants endlessly againt God, sees the creationsit boogeyman behind every rock, and lives in fear tht people realize how insecure they are. Beware of THAT dogma.

    Mats

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  5. Well, anonymous, if I ever actually see that dogma, I'll accept your little rant as having some basis in reality. But as it hasn't showed up yet in many thousands of years, I'm not holding my breath for that any more than I'd hold my breath for proof of any god's existence.

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