It’s not a $2 million ad buy. But will a billboard by the activist group American Atheists at the Super Bowl draw the same kind of attention?
The 14 foot by 48 foot digital billboard in East Rutherford, half a mile from the Meadowlands and Metlife Stadium, is what Super Bowl visitors Sunday will see heading west on Route 3. Once every 10 minutes, it has displayed the American Atheists design, a priest with a football and a message, “A ‘Hail Mary’ only works in football. Enjoy the game!” The ad will continue through Sunday.
It’s a dig at prayer in sports and the conflation of religion with athletics. But it’s also the latest attempt by the group to draw attention to the cause, inviting public confrontation.
In December, American Atheists unveiled a billboard in Times Square that asked, “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody. Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas!” as the backdrop lit up with words like, “snow,” “music,” “family,” “fun” and “lights.”
The Times Square billboard provoked a Republican state senator, Andrew Lanza, to denounce the group, lamenting, “This is part of a continued ‘War on Christmas,’ Lanza said, “and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God. Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small evil baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others.”
The group filed suit earlier this month against the Oklahoma legislature, arguing that the display of a Ten Commandments statue on the Oklahoma capitol grounds, as well as the law that permits its display, violates the U.S. Constitution.
“I want to be clear about this: We have a religious monument, placed on government property, by government mandate,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “That is an explicit violation of First Amendment protections of separation of religion and government.”
The atheist group hopes to draw attention to its upcoming convention, to be held in Salt Lake City on the weekend of April 17-20 — which includes Easter Sunday. Among the speakers will be former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who has been an outspoken supporter of gay rights.
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