FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - An atheist group in North Texas is launching another advertising campaign this week, and after hearing about it, some Fort Worth religious leaders are planning to boycott the company providing the ad space.
The DFW Coalition of Reason announced Monday that it will be using bus billboards in Fort Worth to spread the gospel of nontheism during the month of December.
Signs that read 'Millions of Americans are good without God' will appear on four buses belonging to the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, better known as 'The T' through December, a time many are celebrating religious holidays.
Joan Hunter, spokeswoman for the T, said the signs will not be on the buses before Monday, Dec. 6. Production of the boards took longer than expected because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
In April of 2009, also a time of religious holidays, the DFW Coalition of Reason launched a similar billboard campaign, placing billboards along I-35E in Dallas and I-35W in Fort Worth. Those Billboards read, 'Don't believe in God? You are not alone.'
The Coalition bought the ad space on four buses for $2,600. The campaign runs through the beginning of the year.
The T runs 180 buses through the city of Fort Worth.
Coalition Coordinator Terry McDonald says the bus signs are designed to show that atheists are good Americans as well.
KRLD's Emily Trube speaks with Terry McDonald
On Wednesday, a group of Fort Worth clergy and T employees announced they would consider a boycott of the bus line during the Christmas holidays because of its decision to allow the boards. The group discussed the boycott Thursday morning at Harvey Avenue Missionary Baptist Church.
"We are offended by the anti-God signs and we are very disappointed that The-T Transportation Authority would approve this, especially during the season when Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," said Bishop B.E. George, with Ministers Against Crime.
Several T employees contacted the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and received its support. Rev. Kyev Tatum, SCLC president, called the boards "ungodly foolishness."
"We take offense that during this season in which we as Christians celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that our tax-funded public transportation system would agree to put on its buses billboards that are opposed to our belief system" Tatum said at Thursday's meeting.
But to McDonald, this is the way to show North Texans that there are groups available for atheists in the area, and that they are "not amoral people."
"We would really like to dispel the notion that atheists are amoral," McDonald said. "Atheists are as good as any other group, whether it be religious or not and we're not amoral people. We're regular people just like everybody else."
Anthony Johnson, executive vice president of the transpiration authority, told the clergy group Thursday that the ads do not represent the views of the management. He told the group they also accept advertising from religious groups. "We've been putting Christian ads on buses and benches for years, this is the first time an atheist group has come and approached us with this."
While the ads may be unpopular with many, including some of The T's employees, atheist advertisers have the same liberties as believers, Johnson told the group. "The constitution gives people the right to free speech, I cannot take that away from anybody."
In response to the clergy boycott, McDonald sent a statement saying in part:
"Plans to place the bus signs just happened to come together at this time. December placement was not planned nor was it avoided. But this turns out to be a good time of year to clarify that the winter holidays belong to everyone. Moreover, Christians don't quit advertising their churches during Ramadan, Jewish holy days or times sacred to other religions. Let those of all faiths and none be treated equally.
On the radio this morning the Reverend Kyev Tatum, pastor of Friendship Rock Baptist Church compared his proposed boycott of Fort Worth's "T" buses to the Birmingham, Alabama, bus boycott in the 1960s. It doesn't take much of a skeptic to see that this is both an overreaction and a gross misrepresentation of a historic campaign for freedom."
The T says they will be discussing the controversial billboards at their next board of directors meeting on December 15. At the meeting, the board will revisit the company's policy on religious-oriented advertisements.
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