The Freedom From Religion Foundation blanketed the Atlanta area — DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb counties — with 50 irreverent billboard messages in September.
This is the largest single billboard campaign undertaken to date by the Madison, Wis.-based Foundation, which has about 16,000 nonreligious members nationwide and more than 270 in Georgia.
A variety of small, colorful billboards around town included one with particular meaning for FFRF and for Atlanta. It featured actress Butterfly McQueen, who lived in Georgia at the end of her life, and showcased her statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the 50th anniversary year of the release of the movie “Gone with the Wind,” in which she played the role of “Prissy.” McQueen, a Lifetime FFRF Member, said: “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion.”
Other FFRF messages included: “In Reason We Trust,” depicted on a shiny penny, “Imagine No Religion” with a stained-glass window, a red-white-and-blue “God & Government: A Dangerous Mix”
warning, and the jocular “Sleep In On Sundays.”
Sheila M. Poole, for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Sept. 10, 2010), quoted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor saying the campaign breaks a taboo against criticizing religion: “You can talk about everything else, but you sure aren’t supposed to say anything bad about religion.” Poole also interviewed FFRF Lifetime Member Perry Mitchell, reporting: “Mitchell said he grew up a Methodist but became an atheist nearly 50 years ago. He began questioning religion with the start of the civil rights movement when members of his church didn’t want blacks to attend.”
Poole also quoted a local musician, Craig Gleason, reacting: “You folks don’t have a clue who you’re messing with,” he said of FFRF. “You’re not messing with Craig Gleason or the little church on the corner. This is between you and the Creator.”
The billboards received substantial media coverage, including TV stories on 11Alive, which interviewed Mitchell, who told the station: “We just want people to understand how we feel and educate the public as to a different way of thinking about religion if they want to.”
Eyewitness News 9 (CBS) ran coverage featuring Lifetime Member John Carver, who noted: “it’s a stimulant to thought. The goal as I see it is to acquaint people with the fact that nonbelievers are among them in great numbers, they are good people, that they are trustworthy people and people who want to free themselves from supernaturalism, which all religions carry with them, should feel free to do that.” The reporter noted the Foundation hopes the campaign will help put an end to discrimination and bigotry against freethinkers.
Fox 5 Atlanta aired a segment showing many of the billboards. Noting that one of the signs was right by the entrance to Turner Field, the station interviewed baseball fans going inside, saying: “They are generating a lot of reaction. The billboards are everywhere. The goal, atheists say, is to get people thinking and to separate church and state.”
Public broadcasting also covered the campaign, as did the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Bloomberg News.
FFRF sends special thanks to members Perry Mitchell and Ron Carver for representing FFRF so well in local interviews. To watch this TV coverage, or read press clippings, go to ffrf.org/news/media/ and select “September 2010.” Supporters may earmark tax-deductible donations for FFRF’s billboard or advertising campaign at ffrf.org/donate/