Ten billboards featuring Tulsa-area nonbelievers and families are going up this week for a month in Tulsa, Okla., as part of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s personalized, myth-dispelling “Out of the Closet” campaign.
The colorful billboards, organized with the local FFRF chapter, bear the friendly faces of local atheists, agnostics, freethinkers (and even a “polyatheist”) along their personal freethought “testimonials.”
“I can be moral without religion,” says Sabina Ewbank, of Muskogee, a smiling psychology student pictured against a brilliant lavendar background.
“People of logic don’t belong in the minority,” says Lamar Kernes, 22, a Tulsa student who describes himself as a “freethinker.”
“I don’t need an eternal reward to be moral,” is the statement offered by Ric Nourse of Tulsa, who describes himself as “husband, dad, artist . . . atheist.”
“Heaven is a state of mind,” declares Sara Sharp, 24 of Tulsa, an agnostic with dimples pictured against a red background.
“Another atheist for peace and world harmony,” says Venessa Hayes, of Tulsa, a waitress, mother of three and atheist, who is pictured smiling against a tranquil turquoise background.
A Tulsa student, Hilary, age 25, succinctly explains the secular perspective of morality with her billboard statement: “Humankind = Humans + kindess. No gods required.”
“Reality is my god and my religion,” asserts Melissa Robbins, of Tahlequah, “entrepreneur and atheist.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a state/church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics with more than 16,500 members, about 150 members of them in Oklahoma. Tulsa is FFRF’s third stop on a national campaign to introduce local “friendly neighborhood atheists and agnostics and skeptics” to their neighbors. The campaign went to Raleigh, N.C., in April. FFRF debuted the “Out of the Closet” campaign in its hometown last fall.
“We’re very proud of our Tulsa membership for coming out of the closet in a city which possibly has more visible religion — in the form of church-owned billboards and megachurches, not to mention Oral Roberts University — than any other U.S. city,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.
“We think this is a revolutionary public relations campaign. We are sure there are many Oklahomans who have never knowingly met an atheist or unbeliever, much less someone who is proud to advertise their nonbelief,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president.
“This campaign demonstrates that we atheists and agnostics are your neighbor, your classmate, your colleague, the person who opens the door for you at the grocery store, the parent you meet at the playground,” he added.
Two Tulsa-area nonbelievers chose to be photographed with their small children, including William Poire, of Broken Arrow, a 29 year old father with children Jacob, 5, Aiden, 3 and Sophia, a baby. Poire describes himself as “Atheist by default.”
“I have a personal relationship with reality,” quips the ad featuring Paul Sanchez, of Glenpool, who is pictured hugging his small daughter Adrianna. Paul describes himself as a “polyatheist,” which means someone who rejects deities (plural).
“We warmly thank Rhonda Dorle for being the local coordinator of this campaign,” said Gaylor. Rhonda Dorle is pictured in a pink billboard with the statement “Born again skeptic,” and is identified as 36, from Silver City and an atheist.
FFRF will unveil a fourth Out of the Closet campaign in late June.
“Our members are FFRF’s greatest asset, the best advertisement for freethought. We want to introduce them and their viewpoints to their communities. It’s time to welcome atheists and agnostics into the American mainstream,” Gaylor added.
Because FFRF can’t put all of its members on a billboard, it unveiled an interactive web application, where any nonbeliever may coin a phrase, upload their photo, choose an “out of the closet” appellation and post a billboard look-alike at FFRF’s website.
The Out of the Closet campaign is paid for by donations to FFRF’s billboard fund, which may specifically be earmarked for the Out of the Closet campaign. Your contribution will make it possible for FFRF to take the campaign to new locations.
If you are interested in helping to subsidize a billboard or coordinate a campaign in your area, please contact . FFRF depends on help from a local coordinator to book the digital photos and work with local participants.