Billboards promoting atheist convention denied in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Their billboards have been denied, and now they’re speaking out; the organization American Atheists said they’re frustrated that their billboard ads have been denied in Utah, and they said it's because of the large Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presence in the state.

American Atheists wanted to place their ads on billboards throughout Utah to promote their 2014 convention in Salt Lake City.  The proposed billboards show students, families, an elderly couple and a woman with text that alludes to the fact that not everyone in Utah is religious and that they could be atheists.

Dan Ellis is the President of Atheists of Utah, which is the local affiliate for American Atheists. He said there is a reason the conference is being held in Utah.

“They’ve chosen Utah because the LDS Church has so much power here, and they’ve never been afraid of going into the belly of the beast and standing up for what is right and standing up for human rights,” he said.

Ellis tells FOX 13 News that companies like YESCO and Reagan Outdoor have refused to do business with them because, he claims, they’re scared of the LDS Church.

“That’s really sad that in Utah even just saying that you’re an atheist could be deemed offensive by somebody,” he said.

A statement from the LDS Church states: “This group is trying to create controversy where there is none. These are decisions that clearly rest with advertisers and not with the Church.”

YESCO released a statement saying: “We believe that our medium is an effective outlet for free speech, however we balance that with a strong commitment to adhere to community standards and to ensure that the messages we advertise are not offensive towards any business, group or individual. We carefully evaluate all requests for advertising placement on a case-by-case basis and make the best decision for our clients, our company and the communities in which we operate. In rare instances, we reject advertisements that we find to be misleading, deceptive or offensive to the moral standards of the community.”

Still, Ellis said he doesn’t see the offense.

“They’re certainly not offensive, they’re not deceptive, they’re not misleading,” he said. “I don’t know how any of the ads would fit the description given for why they would turn it down.”

FOX 13 News reached out to Reagan Outdoor but didn’t hear back Thursday night. Although the total dollar amount is unclear, it’s believed that these companies lost tens of thousands of dollars of business by not posting these billboard ads.


  • Ross

    Atheists are offensive. Well, at least “evangelical atheists” are. They spread hate everywhere they go. Why are they in SLC? Obviously to spread hate and conflict with the LDS Church. Who do they think they’re kidding. In towns and cities all across this nation atheists are trying to ruin anything they don’t like: whether it be crosses on hilltops, a copy of the Ten Commandments, or anything else they want to destroy. Just keep your hate and bigotry to yourself atheists. We don’t need you or want you.

  • Sam

    Why the verbal attacks on these atheists? Maybe there’s something outside of this story that I don’t know, but this story is just about atheists trying to advertise a meeting; how is that worthy of attack?
    The only times I’m aware of atheist groups trying to “ruin” anything is when there’s some religious favoritism that’s using public resources. For the most part, there is no bigotry on the atheist side; atheists accept other religions; they don’t want to ban religion; they just don’t want it to be part of the government (just like the Constitution says).
    Atheists are one of the most hated and mistrusted groups in the United States. That’s one reason why they form groups, hold meetings and try to advertise those meetings to the public, so the public can realize that they’re normal people and there’s no reason to hate them just because they’re atheists.

  • Jennifer Smart

    So religious people have a right to speak their mind and speak their word on their god but Atheist should shut their mouth and mind their own business???? Not ALL atheist are offensive or “evil”. If the Mormon church has a right o make billboards so do Atheist. Its called freedom of speech. I am SO SICK of people acting like on religious people should be allowed to speak their mind. Those billboards aren’t even offensive. Religious people just need to get off their self righteous high horse.

  • Eric Anderson

    The billboards are private property. YESCO is not obligated to rent space to anyone.

    Your right to free speech does not mean you have a right to a microphone or an audience.

    I am an atheist, and I think Evangelical Atheists are among the most intolerant and hate-filled of all religions.

    I’m not bothered by religious expression, in public or anywhere else.

  • Ren

    Here is the rub, Atheist or not, the issue is they rejected the business because they felt the message that some people do not believe in god is offensive. Some may say, I agree because I do not like the message, they are a private company and should be allowed to do that. How would it work though, if a company chose to refuse business to you because they think you are Mormon, or Catholic, or Jewish? What if this was a reply to someone wishing to put a Jewish message up and they said it would be upsetting and offensive to the community?

    When we allow intolerance for a minority, we allow it for anyone. Can I hang a Whites only sign over my door? Can I say No Mormons on my business? It would not be allowed, but you are saying it is justified here? Shame if you agree, it is anti-American in thought to be so.

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