Did the Daily Oklahoman Reject a Full-Page Ad from an Atheist Group?

Last week, the Christian chain Hobby Lobby ran an ad (PDF) in dozens of newspapers proclaiming the Christian heritage of our country, with “godly” quotations from the Founding Fathers, the Supreme Court, and Congress. (They’ve been doing this for years.)

In response, the Freedom From Religion Foundation paid for several full-page ads of their own, celebrating our “godless Constitution” and how our Founding Fathers actually supported separation of church and state:

FFRF said it was the “single most expensive ad campaign in our history.”

Everything seemed to go smoothly (excluding the hate-mail they received)… except at the Daily Oklahoman, where FFRF says their ad was rejected:

A full-page ad set to run July 4 celebrating ‘our godless Constitution’ by the national Freedom From Religion Foundation was censored by the Daily Oklahoman, apparently to avoid offending the Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby.

“We’re shocked that our ad, featuring bonafide quotes from early founders and presidents, would be censored, while Hobby Lobby’s disinformation runs without balance,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

“Hobby Lobby’s ads falsely portray the United States as a Christian nation with a government founded on a god, and nothing can be further from the truth,” Gaylor added.

“Why can’t Oklahoma City readers be permitted to read a view challenging Hobby Lobby’s disinformation and our message of ‘In Reason We Trust’?” Gaylor added.

I called up the Daily Oklahoman just moments ago to see why they would reject such an ad and spoke to their VP of Sales Patrice Hannan. She told me:

“We have to the right to accept or reject any advertising because we’re privately held… I can’t comment on an advertiser relationship.”

Standard boilerplate response, I thought, but then Hannan added this:

“We have not ever had any direct contact with this organization.”

Wha…? They’ve never even spoken to FFRF? So is this a case of legal-but-still-not-okay discrimination or just a huge miscommunication?

I asked FFRF if they had contacted the newspaper and they told me that, while Hannan’s statement was technically true, it wasn’t really telling the full story. FFRF placed so many full-page ads for Independence Day this year that they had a third party group (that specializes in this sort of thing) handle all the ad placements.

That company contacted the Daily Oklahoman. That company was told FFRF’s ad couldn’t run in the newspaper.

So while the paper never had direct contact with FFRF, they still knew of and rejected FFRF’s ad.

Why did they do it? We have no idea so we’re forced to speculate. Probably to avoid any backlash from Christians with thin skin.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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