I was notified by email from Atheists United in Los Angeles of the following incident:
On November 20, 2008, the city of Rancho Cucamonga pressured General Outdoor Advertising to remove a controversial billboard with the message “Imagine No Religion” on it because some of its citizens were offended by it.
The billboard, paid for by Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national non-profit advocacy group for atheists and agnostics, included only the words “Imagine No Religion” and the contact information of the organization. The billboard was to stay up throughout the holiday season, but was abruptly taken down when Rancho Cucamonga city administrators demanded that the billboard company do so.
“This is a serious overstep by the city over the boundaries of the First Amendment,” stated Stuart Bechman, President, Atheists United. “It’s hard to imagine a more innocuous statement of non-belief. But even this was too much for political leaders who are clearly in the pockets of some religious leaders to suppress any expression of views that diverge from the orthodox line.”
“City leaders have demonstrated their clear bias towards protecting and providing special privileges to their favored religious beliefs, in clear violation of the California and United States Constitutions. I would like to think that few Christians are so insecure in their faith as to support this action.”
Atheists United and other civil-rights organizations expect an apology to all freethinkers from the city and an admission of error on their part; and if they refuse, for the California Attorney General’s office to open an investigation on the illegal actions taken by the city.
The email includes this link to Atheists United for sending a message to Rancho Cucamonga.
As in other incidents of governmental oppression of atheism, the argument arises that if the city administrators had censored any other group such as a church, synagogue or mosque wanting to express their views on religion and to advertise their presence, the local government would be facing multiple lawsuits and a storm of outrage from across the country. Once again, in their ignorance and bigotry, local officials think it’s okay to squelch the civil rights of atheists.
It is time that we educate them. They’ll keep doing it as long as we let them get away with it.
I don’t think that AU and FFRF should ask for an apology, they should sue immediately and not settle. At the very least, the Rancho Cucamonga City Administrators should pay for restoring the sign, pay for the days that it was down, pay for the AU and FFRF’s legal fees and then issue an apology.
Your thoughts and suggestions?