After NY State Senator Boycotts Times Square Due to Atheist Group’s Billboard, They Buy One Right in His District

A couple of days ago, New York State Senator Andrew Lanza voiced his outrage against an animated billboard put up by American Atheists in Times Square:

First, he compared the group’s “intolerance” to the sort of religious persecution that led up to the Holocaust:

Senator Lanza said, “Just as millions of Americans are preparing to celebrate Christmas, this intolerant and hateful group deliberately ridicules the solemn beliefs of millions of New Yorkers.”

Not only do the people behind this group not believe in God but they obviously don’t believe in decency, civility and kindness to fellow human kind either. This is part of a continued “War on Christmas” and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God. Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small evil baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.

Then he called for the IRS to revoke American Atheists’ non-profit status:

Senator Lanza is also calling for the revocation of the American Atheists’ 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status because he doesn’t believe that tax dollars should be used to spew religious hatred.

There’s no religious hatred taking place here. Meanwhile, the Christian non-profit groups that actually work to block the civil rights of LGBT people and women were given a free pass by the senator…

State Senator Andrew Lanza

And if all that didn’t shout “crazy Republican” loudly enough, he went on to call for a boycott against Times Square and its merchants for allowing the billboard to go up at all (as if they had any control over that) and for not denouncing it as hate speech (which it’s not):

“While it is not surprising to me that people who do not believe in God are hateful and malicious, I would have hoped that the people who own this billboard, those who live in Manhattan and around Times Square and the community’s political leaders would have decried this hate speech as something not to be tolerated or allowed.

“I am calling upon all decent people to send a message loud and clear that there is no room in our society for religious hatred or persecution. To send this message, people should boycott and stay away from Times Square and all those affiliated with hatred of this kind. If you agree, sign onto my petition calling for the immediate withdrawal of this advertisement which will be forwarded to the NYC Mayors Office, the NYC Council, the Attorney General’s office and the Times Square merchant community.”

Not that his boycott would ever be effective — Times Square a couple of weeks before New Year’s Eve? Good luck with that — but how does it make any sense for a New York legislator to boycott a huge commercial center in his state?! If it worked, he’d be hurting the people and districts that his colleagues represent! Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face…

Well, American Atheists is responding today in the best possible way.

They’re putting up a billboard in Lanza’s Staten Island district and daring him to call for another boycott:

“Senator Lanza seems to be unaware that there are millions of atheists right here in New York,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “He accuses us of spewing religious hatred while he himself calls all atheists ‘malicious’ and ‘hateful’ for not believing in his god. We will not be silenced or smeared by a bigoted elected official, nor we will allow our members and the other tens of millions of American atheists to be slandered by a representative of our own government.”

“Lanza had no problem calling for a boycott of Times Square because of our message,” Silverman continued. “We stand behind our billboard and we want the people of Staten Island to know that they don’t need religion to have a great Christmas, either. We are putting up this billboard as a challenge to Senator Lanza. Now the question is, was the senator posturing, or does the he have the guts to call for a boycott in his own district?”

The digital billboard is up on the Goethals Bridge connecting New Jersey to Staten Island.

What say you, Senator Lanza? How could you allow such *vile* advertising to go up in your district? I mean, how dare those atheists say that the holiday season is a time for charity, friends, ice skating, and family… and not just for Jesus?

I’ve asked Lanza’s office for a response and will update if/when I hear back from them.

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.