After Getting Rejected by One Company, Atheist Billboards Go Up in Vancouver Through a Different Vendor

Earlier this month, we learned that Pattison Outdoor Advertising, a billboard vendor in Vancouver, British Columbia, rejected atheist-themed signs without offering an explanation:

It’s not hard to guess why they said no since owner Jim Pattison is an evangelical Christian.

At the time, CFI said they would take action:

CFI will file a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for violation of the BC Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination in service provision. CFI intends to explore all other legal options.

“CFI has consistently opposed the use of human rights apparatuses as tools of censorship,” said [CFI President Kevin] Smith. “Now we intend to use these mechanisms to protect the right of free speech.”

It appears now that Pattison is changing its tune, saying they would allow the ad to go up with “minor tweaks” while another company has offered to put up the ads without any change whatsoever:

According to a press release from the Centre for Inquiry:

The Centre for Inquiry’s new atheist advertising campaign, initially rejected by Pattison Outdoor in Vancouver, has now been launched with CBS Outdoor. The ads replace religious proverbs with humanist phrases such as, “Praying won’t help. Doing will.”

The controversy has generated a heated discussion. In light of public support, CFI is raising funds to bring the ads across the country. “CFI is a voice for millions of Canadians who question the need for religion to live a good, meaningful life,” said CFI President Kevin Smith. “We’re pleased to bring their message into the public square, despite opposition.”

Pattison now claims they would approve the ads with minor tweaks, which is fundamentally different from their original notice. Pattison officials had rejected out of hand CFI’s request for explanation or guidelines behind their decision.

CBS Outdoor agreed to run the ads without changes. The ads can be seen on transit shelters in downtown Vancouver and on two billboards in Burnaby.

If you’d like to donate to put up those billboards (or ones like it) in other cities, you can pitch in right here.

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.

  • KMR

    The lead with your heart one isn’t good. Emotionally based decisions can lead to just as horrible decisions as biblically based decisions sometimes more so. It should be more like “Lead with your head.”

  • Rationalist1

    The “Lead with your heart” does apply to how I felt when I was a believing Catholic. There were teachings in the Catholic Church that I really felt were wrong because it showed a lack of compassion for gays and women but my church (or Bible) taught otherwise. The Catholic church in asserting that its treatment of women and gays was appropriate was a straight reasoning exercise, appealing straight to my head. But my compassion, or heart, told me I was wrong. In the end, it won out, and I was able to see how my thinking had been manipulated.,

    I see your issue but I feel in some ways this works foe me and I hope it will work for others who are like I was.

  • KMR

    Thank you for explaining it from your point of view and now that you did I see where the billboard is probably coming from. Perhaps a better way of saying it would be “lead with compassion.” For me, I naturally have very strong emotions and experience has taught me that better decisions come with a break so that the intensity of them has time to subside. Hence why I dislike the sign. Funny though how a seemingly straight forward sign produced totally different reactions in both of us,

  • Rationalist1

    “Lead with compassion” would be better, but it compassion or heart always tempered by reason or head. One’s intellect informs ones compassion so that when one accepts that women are the equal of men in all areas and gays have the same rights as straights, then ones compassion takes over an one knows certain things are wrong in more than a cerebral sense.

    It is interesting the different reaction but it’s good these signs are up. Positive atheist messages are always good.

  • # zbowman

    Perhaps ‘Lead with your conscience’ would encapsulate most, or all, of the human aspects that should inform decisions.

  • KMR

    I like it but to be quite blunt know quite a few people whose conscience sucks. All of them are fundamentals. Crazy….

  • # zbowman

    Might that be because they’re using the Bible, instead of their conscience itself? ^^

  • Rationalist1

    zbowman – Perfect,

  • AxeGrrl

    Lead with compassion

    Perfect :)

  • invivoMark

    I’d have rejected them on aesthetic grounds. It looks like CFI just used stock photos they grabbed off Google Image Search, then put quotes next to them and made up names for the people.

    But, sure, they should be allowed to go up.

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    I think you may be right on the stock photo idea. I did find the lady in the first image elsewhere. Dropping the unaltered image gives me “Professional College Student” with one of the returns giving me this link:

    http://blog.brazencareerist.com/2012/05/30/top-5-life-saving-browser-extensions-for-college-students/

    It does look like they used some royalty-free assets for their advertising campaign.

    -edit-
    Full image found at Delphi Bank website:
    http://www.delphibank.com.au/personal-banking/internet-banking

    …and a few other places.

  • Rationalist1

    I had a friend who is a member of a diminishing Protestant denomination and she took great solace in the future of her denomination by the many pictures of youths on the cover and inside of her monthly religious magazine. I didn’t have the heart to tell here they were all stock photos.

    Although for non religious, the youth is 1/3rd ours.

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    My favorites are when religious pamphlets and books use stock photos of of people that don’t fit within their viewpoints. Like “traditional marriage” groups using a photo of a lesbian couple at their wedding.

  • invivoMark

    Wait, they did just Google some stock photos? What the hell, CFI? You’re going to spend, what, thousands of dollars on an advertising campaign? Did you throw something together in five minutes? Was there some deadline approaching?

    CFI, you know there are millions of atheists in Canada. Hell, you know this because they donate money to you. Grab a professional photographer (or an amateur one who works in your office, or throw out a line in your newsletter), get a few photogenic CFI members to do a shoot somewhere in Vancouver, and let them pick the line. I’ve got faith in atheists (ha), I guarantee you’ll get some quotable lines – maybe even ones that are better than what you picked.

    This slap-dash hackery is embarrassing, and you should feel embarrassed. I know you’re actually an organization and not a person, and therefore you’re not capable of feeling embarrassment, but you should feel it.

  • http://lady-die.deviantart.com/ LizzyJessie

    I don’t think it was a simple google search. The images I find with that don’t have high enough resolution for print, much less a giant outdoor billboard sign. I’d have to say it was a royalty free photopack used for advertising.

    But yes, I agree, they should have been a bit more authentic in their presentation.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    It appears now that Pattison is changing its tune, saying they would allow the ad to go up with “minor tweaks”

    I would very much like to know what those “minor tweaks” would have been. Gee, they weren’t going to utterly change CFI’s message to the opposite of the intended meaning, were they…?

    Pattison, make some major tweaks to the last part of your digestive tract.

  • Riddles

    I assume it might be something like removing the bits like “praying won’t help” and “not with your bible”. I doubt he would like those to remain.

  • Fallulah

    NICE! As a Canadian I am glad these are going up and hope to see one in my own city (The Conservative Evangelical Mecca that is Calgary) pretty soon!!

  • Rationalist1

    Yeah, but look at your mayor, he’s great I’ll trade you for ours.

    A Torontonian.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Your mayor is now about as effective as the queen. Although at least the queen waves and smiles.

  • invivoMark

    Your mayor is hilarious.

  • Fallulah

    Bahaha no thanks, I’ll keep Nenshi, even though he isn’t perfect, as least he isn’t a bigotted, womanizing, crack smoking (need I continue) Ford.
    My thoughts are with you guys 😉

  • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

    Something about those fake chapter and verse references bothers me. I’m not sure what though.

  • invivoMark

    Funny, that’s the only part of these I did like.


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