No speech, free or paid, for FFRF in Pitman, N.J.

FFRF was denied space by Clear Channel Outdoor to place light-hearted billboards promoting freethought in Pitman, N.J., after being censored by Pitman city officials. Although FFRF had a contract with the company signed 11 months ago for three particular billboards, Clear Channel announced in late November that FFRF’s proposed signs could not appear within a half mile of a church.

Since all three (conveniently) are within a half mile of a church, Clear Channel severed the contract.

FFRF first wrote a letter of complaint to Pitman in 2011, when a local resident alerted FFRF to a Knights of Columbus “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner placed every December over a main street by the Pitman Fire Department. FFRF discovered the Knights did not obtain a permit for their banner.

When FFRF sought in 2012 to put up its own seasonal rejoinder, “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia,” the borough required a permit, then denied FFRF’s application. Last December, FFRF put up billboards to counter the city’s continued favoritism of the Christian banner. Two men tried to burn down the Saturnalia billboard, but it wasn’t damaged.

“The most disappointing thing is that this reinforces criminal behavior. The arsonists were trying to censor FFRF’s message, and Clear Channel has now rewarded that felonious behavior,” said Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, who is dealing with Pitman for the fourth year.

According to, Mayor Russ Johnson said the “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner represented the “spirit of Pitman” and said he hoped it would do so “for another 40 years.”

“This blackout of freethought views in Pitman is the product of government favoritism of religion and censorship of dissenting views,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Freedom From Religion Foundation