Battle of the Chambersburg billboards
By PUBLIC OPINION ONLINE
Added: Sat, 09 Feb 2008 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Carl H. Silverman for the link.
Battle of the Chambersburg billboards
By ROSCOE BARNES III Staff writer
Chambersburg has become the battleground of dueling billboards on the subject of faith and religion.
Days after an atheist-sponsored billboard was removed from U.S. 30 West near Sunnyway Foods and Warm Spring Road, another billboard with an opposing message went up on U.S. 30 West near Food Lion.
The new billboard, posted on Thursday, is sponsored by "In God We Trust," a national advocacy group based in Arlington, Va. It poses the question: "Why Do Atheists Hate America?"
The sign depicts a child saluting the U.S. flag and includes the Web site: www.InGodWeTrustUSA.org.
The new billboard is in response to the sign, "Imagine No Religion," that was posted before Christmas. It was sponsored by a local person and included the Web site address for Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Jim Crumley of Trio Strategies, a public relations firm in Northern Virginia, said In God We Trust launched its campaign in response to the original billboard message that was sponsored by Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Bishop Council Nedd, chairman of IGWT's board of directors, said in a press statement that FFRF has "embarked on a national campaign to denigrate religion and convince Americans that their country's religious heritage is somehow wrong."
Nedd said that FFRF's "offensive billboards insult the millions and millions of Americans of varying faiths who believe that religion has been, and still is, a force for good."
IGWT decided to post its billboard in Chambersburg because Nedd's ties to the area and the need to respond to FFRF. Nedd's mother is from McConnellsburg and he learned of the FFRF sign through people in the Chambersburg area.
"We found out about it, so we figured we would respond," he said. "We want to provide a counter balance and draw attention to the issues. This is a national campaign and we want to spark debate. We also feel very strongly about the issue."
IGWT's sign will rotate for the next six months in various places near Chambersburg. So far, only one of the signs is posted, but another one might be posted in another city, according to Nedd.
When asked about the question, "Why do atheists hate America?" Nedd gave a quick reply: "That's what we're trying to figure out. We don't know the answer."
He said his group is not saying the atheists are anti-American. However, they appear to be, he said. Still, he said, "this is a free country and everyone is free to believe what he or she chooses."
He said the leaders of FFRF have a long history of holding hate-filled anti-American views.
"They believe that religion, specifically Christianity, is harmful and that faith in God is dangerous to one's mental health," he said in his press statement. "They believe that our national religious heritage has resulted in 'American colonial intolerance,' and they ridicule the phrase, 'Proud to be an American.'"
According to Nedd, the leaders of FFRF have repeatedly stated that "merely having to hear the Pledge of Allegiance is offensive and should be banned, and they railed against the National Day of Prayer following the attacks of Sept. 11."
FFRF is not simply a group of non-believers that wants to be left alone, he said: "They are a collection of organized, well funded zealots who are insulted by the mere existence of people who believe in the Almighty. The are determined to drive religion underground."
Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising, Chambersburg, is the company hosting the new billboard.
Earlier this week, Dusky A. Chilcote, senior account executive for Kegerreis, said the company was concerned about the "Imagine No Religion" sign, which it had hosted.
Chilcote said she was personally hurt by the deception of the sponsor, who allegedly led her to believe the sign was presented by a local church.
The "Imagine No Religion" sign was replaced this week by a new sign with the words: "In God We Trust: Kegerreis Outdoor Advertising LLC." Underneath are the words: "The previous sign posted at this location does not reflect the values or morals of our company. Thank you."
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