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South African church billboard banned following atheist complaint

I was interested to read that a church in South Africa has been ordered to remove a billboard about non-believers following a complaint from an atheist to the country's Advertising Standards Authority.

The billboard depicted a man, apparently missing that crucial section of the head that houses the brain, holding his temples in deep thought (lack of brain notwithstanding), alongside a line by the English poet Francis Thompson: “An atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident.”

In his complaint to the ASA, Eugene Gerber argued that the billboard, displayed outside River’s Church in Sandton, was offensive:

"In essence, the complainant submitted that the billboard offends him as an atheist as he does not consider his existence to be an accident. Secondly, the depiction of a man with an empty head communicates that atheists are stupid."

The ASA upheld the complaint, and explained in the ruling how it determines what can and cannot be considered offensive in relation to religion and belief:

"... when advertising with somewhat of a religious connotation or connection does not pass comment or judgement, or belittles a basic belief or tenet of any specific religion or belief system, it would not likely be regarded as offensive to that particular religion."

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