Sixth-Commandment Billboards Soon to Saturate Detroit’s Blighted Neighborhoods (Killings to Cease in 5, 4, 3….)

Urban violence in Detroit is out of control, and one woman won’t take it anymore.

In the aftermath of a shooting in a Detroit barbershop that killed three people and wounded six on Nov. 6, Pastor Ovella Andreas mobilized other church leaders to figure out how to respond. “This is an emergency; this is a crisis, and we have to come together now to do what we can,” she told WWJ. “I truly know if we do what we can, God will do what we cannot; but we’re not doing all that we can.”

So what did pastor Andreas and her task force decide to do? Simple. They will

bombard Detroit with “Thou Shalt Not Kill” banners and signs around the city with the hopes that seeing the sixth commandment everywhere will serve as a wake-up call to the community. “Our goal now is to infiltrate and saturate our communities with this commandment, via buses, via billboards,” Andreas said.

Brilliant. That ought to stamp out gun crime, right? Right?

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • Guillaume Bérubé

    Do they really think that people that are going to commit a violent crime are gonna be swayed by being recalled that killing isn’t something you should do? I guess they are used to magical thinking.

  • Feminerd

    Well, they are in blue. We know that blue street lights actually do reduce crime, so maybe blue-lettered billboards will help too?


  • Richard Wade

    Funny how Joe Klein never writes “Thou shalt not kill” in his TIME articles.

  • baal

    It’s magic plain and simple. Put up the holy totems and their “emanations of spirit energy” will keep the evil at bay.

  • atheismFTW

    As a Detroiter, I can tell you firsthand that more often than not you’ll find at LEAST one church on every street corner. If having all those churches hasn’t done any good by now, a few billboards with “Thou Shall Not Kill” are child’s play at best. Money would have been better spent helping local families in need.

  • Ducky

    How long do you think it will be before someone is beaten to death with one of those signs?

  • islandbrewer

    That’s a brilliant plan! Did someone from the NRA help her come up with the idea?

  • Lando

    If blue is the big factor, I think we can up the effectiveness pretty easily – just have the background match the text color.

  • Feminerd

    That might work too! Or it might be the lights are as important as the color. This could be an interesting experiment, if we did it right (some billboards with the words, some blue lights, some blue billboards).

  • invivoMark

    Wait, the sixth Commandment according to Calvinists, Jews, and Orthodox Christians, or the sixth Commandment according to Lutherans, Catholics, and Augustine of Hippo? Depending on which one, they should put up “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” “Thou shalt not kill” is either Commandment #5 or #7 according to some sources.

    It would be ultimate irony if these signs, rather than quelling violence, sparked a religious war. Fortunately, though, most Christians won’t know the Bible well enough to notice.

    However, I do hope they run an advert on the buses on Sunday that says “Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath.” And maybe one or two adverts about graven images or taking the lord’s name in vain. I mean, those might not prevent violence, but they came earlier in the list of Commandments, so they’re probably more important, right?

  • Lando

    i say we just get one of those wildfire-fighting planes full of blue paint and just go one block at a time. Yes, cropdusters would work, but that’s less fun

  • A3Kr0n

    Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before? Oh ya, because it’s stupid.

  • Feminerd

    No no, we should only hit up some blocks! That way we have control groups :)

  • Lando

    Control groups, polka dots…potato, potahto.

  • Mario Strada

    Finally, a tangible, practical solution to this senseless killing.
    How didn’t we all think of it? It has worked so well in history. Look at the crusades for instance. The western Christians could have gone to Constantinople and sack and kill everybody, instead they only killed most of the eastern Christians there. See? It works.

  • 7Footpiper

    When you consider that many of the people pulling the trigger are religious to begin with you’d have thought the message would have got through already. I guess God doesn’t think people are doing all they can do though.

  • Rich Wilson

    Isn’t there significant overlap between people who think proclaiming “Thou Shalt Not Kill” will stop killings, and people who think that any laws related to guns are completely pointless since criminals don’t obey laws?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Why don’t they just ask Jesus? After all, enough faith can move mountains. Jesus said so. What’s a little mind rape compared to that?

  • Jacqui H

    I think we need to work on having working street lights in Detroit first before worrying about the color… though since my favorite color is blue this totaling works for me and my drive to work.

  • creativerealms

    This seems silly. everyone over a certain age should know killing is wrong. Just because they should not kill does not mean they will not kill. Honestly this seems to be doing nothing by doing something. It’s a waste of time and money.

  • Feminerd

    Well yes. It obviously helps to have functioning lights at all if you want to turn them blue. Detroit’s going to be awhile in this whole bankruptcy thing, though … maybe when they do get around to replacing street lights, they can use blue bulbs at least?

  • Timmah

    Ohhhhhhhh Tho shalt NOT kill. Thanks for clearing that up even tho every civilized society on the planet already has laws against killing each other.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Yes, but those are human laws with no basis in grounded morality. God’s law, on the other hand, never changes and is constant. You can rely on it as a guide for morality.

  • icecreamassassin

    Why waste resources on being moral when you can use them to be righteous?

  • Makoto

    A spike in crime rates, due to current issues, and the response is to waste money on telling people something they already know – they shouldn’t kill others. Brilliant. Maybe if they get a do-over, they could use that money to.. I don’t know, help those in need instead. Use it as a fund to assist people in abusive relationships so they can get hotel rooms out of reach of their abusers. Or a fund to feed those who are hungry. Or to get medicine to those who are sick. Or.. basically anything but paste more platitudes up on billboards where they do nothing for anyone.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Ah yes, because what detroit needs is more praying not economic invest and government action to fix what is almost a slum city. Sometimes I think that people watched robocop and thought that it would be good if it were to happen in the future.

  • madphd

    Maybe it will work. Not too different from all of the banners, billboards, and bumper stickers that say “don’t text/drink, and drive”.

  • fenaray

    But all those guns are helping to protect the people. /s

  • Terry Firma

    The illustration is a generic one, as we couldn’t yet find an image of the actual billboards in question. We don’t know what those will look like, or what color they’re in.

    Sorry for any confusion!

  • Feminerd

    Oh bah! Well there goes that hypothesis, anyways.

  • wmdkitty

    Oh, yeah, that’s gonna work…

  • Bob Becker

    Aw, guys, c’mon…. the lady’s trying to do something about the carnage. I figure it can’t hurt, if people donate to support it — well, it’s their money to gI’ve, I don’t think atheists ought to be arguing that billboard messages don’t work at all, and who the hell knows? If just one angry kid heading out to drive-by-shoot because he thinks he’s been dissed, sees one, thinks it over and pulls back, it’ll have been worth it.

  • randomfactor

    More shootings in churches than in schools, IIRC…

  • busterggi

    Perhaps if these were posted outside military bases…

  • busterggi

    I thought that Commandment # 5 and #7 had something to do with haiku.

  • Me

    I guess then the violence is proportional to the number of churches? :P

  • Matt Potter

    As an atheist and a humanist I find the most alarming aspect to this story is that Christians somehow just need to be reminded that killing is frowned upon.

  • Rain

    Because it worked so well when Moses put up the original one.

  • SeekerLancer

    Well there are worse things they could put on a billboard. So whatever.

    Not that it’ll do anybody any good.

  • Tobias 27772

    Of all of the things that we complain about these idiots doing, this has got to be one of the least offensive. Of all of the things that christians say, this one is pretty good


    It seems to be a reasonably common thread that some Christians believe that non-believers are that way because they just don’t know about this Christianity thing.

    The church that sat between where I lived, and the local shops used to have volunteers outside using the winning line of “Excuse me, have you ever wondered what happens in there?”

    They were British though, so it tended to be in a very apologetic “terribly sorry for bothering you” manner which made it very hard to reply with the level of sarcasm that bubbled up inside.


    From this distance, I don’t find it offensive, I just find it slightly sad that this the best thing they can think of to do to help the situation.

    Are people that susceptible to advertising that this will have an effect? Given that political candidates with the nicest hair win more often*, I’m worried that people are that easily swayed.

    *Citation needed.

  • dave

    Great idea, put it on the drones so the Taliban can read it when they fly past.

  • Robster

    Hey! Great idea, all the thugs will be wondering where that pearl of morality popped up from. Jees, up until now they would have had no idea they were breaking the law.

  • jdm8

    If someone started talking to me in “thou”, I think I’d reply where he or she can stuff that kind of talk.

  • Christian Kemp

    That is true that’s why in predominantly theistic areas there are never murders. Hang on that’s a mistake, I meant in secular areas.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I have no idea that what you are saying here.

  • Copyleft

    Those are some hard-working Christians right there. “We’re doing all we can do.” Uh-huh. Running ads for your business is ‘all you can do,’ eh?

  • Timothy McLean

    I wonder how many of the murderers were unaware that it’s wrong to kill people, and how many would have changed their mind from a half-hour sermon on the subject.
    Scratch that, most of them would have decided to shoot the sermon-giver instead.

  • Christian Kemp

    In highly religious areas,like the bible belt the rate of crime is higher than in non religious areas.

  • Pseudonym

    Has nobody here read Freakonomics? You can increase the compliance rate of doctors washing their hands by putting pictures of eyes above every sink in a hospital.

    That’s the weird thing about behavioural science: many of the most effective ideas seem stupid at first blush. There’s good research that this sort of thing can work. I have my doubts about this one in particular, but it seems like a cheap thing to try.