American Atheists’ Hebrew Billboard Must Relocate Due to Landlord’s Opposition

American Atheists’ Arabic and Hebrew billboards were supposed to go up yesterday in Brooklyn, but one of them has already hit a snag:

Apparently, calling out the Jews who just go through the motions at Synagogue and telling them they have a choice about the matter is too offensive for some people. When Clear Channel workers came to a Brooklyn apartment to install the billboard, the landlord refused to let them in:

… at the last minute, landlord Kenny Stier refused to allow workers from the advertising company Clear Channel into his building…

[American Atheists president Dave] Silverman claims powerful neighborhood rabbis convinced Stier to block the non-believing billboard and called the religious leaders and the landlord “anti-atheist bigots.”

“The Jews have stopped the billboard,” said Silverman. “It’s really ugly bigotry. As a former Jew, it’s repugnant to see Jews act like this.”

What did Stier say in response?

Nothing. He’s taking the coward’s way out:

… Stier declined to comment.

“I don’t want to get involved in this,” he said.

He doesn’t want to get involved… other than making sure the perfectly legal and inoffensive billboard doesn’t get anywhere near his building.

Silverman is amazed that Stier in particular would act this way:

The billboard’s going to go up somewhere by the end of the week, according to Silverman, but I’m shocked that Stier is allowed to decide which billboards go up just like that when he doesn’t own the billboard space.

On the upside, more publicity and a chance for more people to hear AA’s message…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Revyloution

    Why isn’t AA suing over their loss of free speech rights?  If the billboard is considered a public forum (it is) then the owner of the building should only have two choices:

    1. Have the billboard completely removed and refund the rents the company paid to him
    or
    2. Let the billboard company have access to their space and put up any advertisement that has been paid for.

    • Travshad

      Billboards are just “general advertising for hire”.  Non-governmental billboard companies have the legal right to determine what is appropriate for their space (with some non-discrimination limitations and other governmental regulation).  This is the same as any other business, they gernerally have a choice in what products to carry.  There is no free speech issue in this case.  If the landlord is in violation of whatever contract he has with Clear Channel, than Clear Channel may have a case against the landlord.  If you read the article, Clear Channel has already found another spot for this billboard. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Floyd-Wilson/661599488 Floyd Wilson

      Please cite the relevant law that makes a privately owned billboard into a “Public forum”.

  • Achess

    “Stier is allowed to
    decide which billboards go up just like that when he doesn’t own the
    billboard space.”

    But is he? Does anyone know exactly?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Floyd-Wilson/661599488 Floyd Wilson

      Most likely he is not, but that is a private contractual matter between clear channel who leases the space for the billboard, and the owner of the building. 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       I think he might have some justification in being worried about vandalism – or firebombing- since the billboard is attached to a building.  I wonder what these “powerful neighborhood rabbis” threatened Stier with.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    It’s interesting that Clear Channel got involved with these billboards in the first place.  This media giant is half owned by Bain Capital.  Gosh, Mitt Romney had better keep tabs on his underlings.  (Just kidding.  I know the corporate personhood does not give a rip about defending religion when there’s $$$ to be made.)

  • dauntless

    Something about Silverman’s “the Jews have stopped the billboard” response struck me as distasteful and more akin to something you’d hear Mel Gibson say. Referring to “the Jews” as a singular entity … He could have phrased his remarks a bit less overtly anti-Semitic.

    I’m not a concern troll, and I’m not Jewish, but that was my first thought when I read his remarks. I had to re-read it, and while it is technically correct, it still strikes me as anti-Semitic.

    • Carmenella

      I understand what you’re saying, but in these hasidic communities, they have more control over the community than you might think, and I’m almost certain Silverman is right that the rabbis have clamped down on this.   Go to Crown Heights or Williamsburg and see for yourself.   They have their own volunteer police force, many restaurants will not serve women who are not “modestly dressed,” and there are signs posted to remind women about the modesty rules.  Any women who want to be in business cannot really interact with men, they can’t shake hands, or be in the same room alone.  It is incredibly intolerant in a very organized way.  

      • Shira Goldberg

        I live in Borough Park, one of the largest and most intense Jewish communities in the world, and while I do have a Jewish name, my appearance is very secular. I’m talking jeans and tank top secular. Miniskirt secular. My neighbors have no idea of my Jewish heritage. I have never once been denied service in a restaurant in my neighborhood. Not once. I have also never been insulted or told to walk on another side of the street. Not once. As far as “their own police force” is concerned…it is an additional community policing organization, not a replacement for the NYPD. If I call 911 from my house, the NYPD will show up, not the Shomrim.  Borough Park is the the safest neighborhood in Brooklyn, that is a fact. Maybe more communities would benefit from an additional volunteer police force. You are correct about one thing, they do put up signs . These signs are in Hebrew or Yiddish. They are also directed specifically toward religious women, as they translate to ”
        Precious Jewish daughters, please move over to the side when you see a man come across”. Whether you like it or not, seperation of the sexes is part of their religious freedom, with many women just as enthusiastically posting these signs as men. Before you generalize I suggest you come and “see for yourself” as you said. Come spend a day walking down 14th ave, the main shopping strip. Come see if anyone dares not serve you or even says an unkind word. Come see if anyone asks you to cross the street when a man is walking. I doubt they would even notice you are there.

    • Anonymous

      Its unfortunate but “the Jews” seems to be both the politically correct term as well as the racial slur (i think a comedian did a joke about it once)

  • Ndonnan

    If the American Rednecks wanted to put up a anti gay billboard in SanFransisco you would get the same response and fair enough.These are nothing more than childish shit stirring,


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