You can argue that the PA Nonbelievers/American Atheists billboard that featured a Bible verse about slavery wasn’t offensive if you took a second to read the fine print and understand the (anti-slavery) meaning behind it:
But it’s also true that the intended message wasn’t conveyed properly.
Most locals just didn’t get it. And even some of you who knew precisely what the message was didn’t like it. If that’s the reaction, then the billboard creators are at fault. Billboards are about communication, and this billboard didn’t communicate its message well.
Brian Fields, the president of the PA Nonbelievers, issued this apology at the time, the same day the billboard was vandalized and taken down:
I want to say that I’m truly sorry that many people have misunderstood this billboard. It was never our intention to use “race” as our message itself…
Does that cut it?
Alonzo Fyfe doesn’t think so. He suggests a proper — better — way for Fields and the other group leaders to apologize:
Hint: “I am sorry that you are all such idiots” is not an apology.
Here are the five elements of a proper apology illustrated with sample text:
(1) The apology itself.I am truly sorry.
(2) A statement of personal responsibility. where the agent describes exactly what he or she did wrong.We created a billboard that was so poorly designed that a casual observer could take it as an endorsement of black slavery when, in fact, it was meant to condemn slavery.
(4) A statement of the steps that will be taken to prevent similar events in the future.We accept that it is our responsibility to make sure that our message is clearly understood. In the future, when we condemn those practices that contributed to and supported slavery – and we will continue to do so – we will make sure that we use a message that clearly condemns slavery. Unlike the Pennsylvania Legislature, we have no interest in even appearing to endorse those practices and institutions used in the defense of slavery. We will see to it that our future actions reflect that standard.
There’s a lot more where that came from on Alonzo’s site.