American Atheists has their big 2014 National Convention coming up next year in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they wanted to put up a billboard to generate some publicity for the group and the event itself. But the Salt Lake Tribune reports on the ridiculous rejections AA has received when it comes to putting up its billboards. It appears that an atheist sign — any sign — will rub Mormon residents the wrong way:
AA officials say they called nine Utah companies looking for three to five billboards to promote September’s early-bird rates, but after repeated attempts, only two called them back.
[AA public relations director] Muscato said Reagan Outdoor Advertising told him they’d pass, and YESCO, after first rejecting a play on the church’s “I’m a Mormon” ad campaign, then nixed three other submissions that made no mention of Mormons…
In an email to Muscato, a YESCO employee wrote that his ad director signed off on AA’s resubmissions but that the company’s sales director and president declined the contract because “it was deemed to be too controversial for our Salt Lake market.”
“Too controversial”? I know AA has a reputation for ads that generate all sorts of hate-mail, but how offensive were these billboards?!
Here’s the first one that was rejected, presumably for using the word “Mormon”:
Father Aethelwine Richards, a leader in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of Europe, recently moderated two panels at an event about discrimination against religious minorities in Europe. He summarized the conversation by suggesting that “secularism could be the new terrorism.”
From what I can tell, there were no atheists on either panel to counter the ridiculous claim, but they were the subject of discussion among the religious conservatives who were there, according to Brian Pellot of Religion News Service: