Threats and complaints, like sin, are all equal in the eyes of the lord.

You’d think that an organization that has defended its right to lie would have accumulated enough practice to be good at it.

American Atheists has decided to take down its billboards in North Carolina.  Fox News has an article out on it with the following headline:

Complaints cause atheist-funded billboards in North Carolina to come down

Yes, because American Atheists has a track record of altering its activism because religious people complained.

So that’s what the headline said.  The text of the article says…

Amanda Knief, managing director of American Atheists, said a report from Fox News on Wednesday about the billboards led to a national outpouring of “vitriol, threats and hate speech against our staff, volunteers and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

If Adams Outdoor Advertising had not been involved, American Atheists would have kept the billboards in place, Knief said.

“It was a mutual decision between us and Adams Advertising for the safety and interests of both organizations that the billboards come down,” Knief said.

Threats.  Threats.  Complaints didn’t bring the billboard down, threats did.

American Atheists was concerned about not only their safety, but the safety of the employees at Adams Outdoor Advertising.

The quote from Knief was likely taken from the American Atheists post about it, where Kniefs line about threats was backed up by Teresa McBain saying…

Teresa MacBain, American Atheists’ Public Relations Director said, “It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief.

Safety was the issue.  Safety, presumably, from Christians who consider criticizing religion to be a greater crime than threatening someone’s well being (assuming they think bullying for Jesus is a crime at all).  Gentle Jesus apparently doesn’t do much for keeping believers honest or peaceful.  You’d think the people claiming the moral high ground wouldn’t want to win if they couldn’t win honorably.

Seems the winning is what’s important, not the honor.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • hexidecima

    what is different about taking the billboards down out of fear and not depicting Mohammed out of fear?

    • (e)m

      Innocent third parties.

  • CT

    To be fair, every single station here, Charlotte, just reported as “complaints”, even stations that are not Fox related.

    I think they just didn’t want to repeat that threats were made in a mostly xtian area because then it would sound like they were saying xtians use death threats!111 elebenty!! And it makes the xtians who didn’t threaten say “well it must have been crazy people who did it”.

    • invivoMark

      Or, more likely, the news stations realized that those who made the threats were probably in their customer base.

  • John

    If anyone complained (not threatened, complained) about a Christian billboard, you’d see people absolutely *screaming* about their “rights being violated” and how “Christians are persecuted”. And the billboard would stay up, even if you could unquestionably tie their presence to being the inspiration for a threatened murder. Yet the godless, supposedly “uncaring” atheists acknowledge that someone (someone *other than* atheists) might get hurt because of these billboards, and allow them to be taken down to protect people. Which one of these groups is actually living up to the idea of “love thy neighbor”?

  • Marcus Ranum

    Imagine this scenario: some school board puts up a “ten commandments” poster. The officials of the school get anonymous death threats.

    Oh, yeah, you can tell who’s on the side of righteousness pretty quickly.

    • TychaBrahe

      Don’t be so quick to defend atheists.

      Remember that many prominent atheists get threats of violence, death, and rape, presumably from other atheists, for espousing unpopular ideas like “People of color should feel welcome at our cons,” and “Women shouldn’t be sexually harassed online.”

      • Marcus Ranum

        Good point. Now I have to go wash my brain out with soap.

        • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

          Pass the soap.

  • Skip White

    The picture of the presumably Mormon guy with the glowing, magic underwear reminds me of the LucasArts logo back in the 90′s. Great, now I have a sudden urge to play Sam & Max Hit the Road. Thanks, JT.

    • Aliasalpha

      THAT’S why it looked familiar!!! To SCUMMVM!

    • John Horstman

      THE DIG!!!!! Such a great adventure game, and SOOOO hard before I had solid internet access.

  • robb

    the didn’t take them down because of threats silly! here are two of the emails they recevied:


    “I hope your children are raped by a herd of goddamn N$%#ERS and then their throats are slit and they die a slow painful death. Now that would be fun to watch. I hope it happens to all of you atheist parents.”

    now, how could those be construed as theats? those emails were written by god fearing, neighbor lovin, church goin christians simply expressing their loving christian point of view. geez.

    • Skip White

      Assuming those are exactly as the threats appeared, it’s interesting that they’d still self-censor the bad words (even though they’re still obviously using them), but totally be okay telling complete strangers to commit incest, die of cancer, get run over by a truck, etc. etc. Although I don’t know what the relationship between “A#% CANCER” and bleeding out “YOUR A#@ES” is. Maybe some regional dialect?

    • robb

      Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a post about it. the article had the naughty words edited that way.

      • Skip White

        Ah, now I see. Still, nice sentiments from such holy people.