Atheist billboard about Christmas ignites controversy
A new atheist billboard installed near the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey is causing major controversy. Sponsored by the American Atheist Alliance, the billboard is just one of many. The freedom of speech debate around this billboard is heated.
Atheist billboard ‘celebrates’ Christmas
The billboard recently erected next to the Lincoln Tunnel is sponsored by the American Atheists. It appears to be a “standard” Christmas-themed billboard, with three men on camels traveling toward a star. The text on the atheist billboard, however, makes it very different. “You KNOW it’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON!” headlines the board. At the bottom of the billboard is the credit for the American Atheists and the web address atheists.org.
The debate over atheist billboards
Though this is one of the first atheist “Christmas” billboards by the Lincoln Tunnel, it is not the first billboard sponsored by the American Atheists. Previous billboards in North Carolina, Sacramento, Idaho and Detroit have all been vandalized. In Cincinnati, a billboard had to be relocated after the owner of the property where an atheist billboard was erected received multiple threats to their life and property. Billboards are an often-used recruiting and information tool used by both the American Atheists and associated groups.
First Amendment questions about atheist billboards
The First Amendment right of the Atheist billboards to exist has been repeatedly established. Many religious groups have expressed frustration and anger with the atheist billboards, however. Some Christian conservative commentators have called these billboards “un-American.” This only highlights, though, the general misunderstanding of separation of church and state. The U.S. Constitution includes the phrase “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Though this does not include the phrase “separation of church and state,” as pointed out by several politicians, it has been interpreted as such. So, as much as some may dislike the atheist billboards, they have as much of a right to be there as any other Christmas billboard.