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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Civil Liberties

David Lewkowict

Atlanta, GA

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OMG — That Billboard Says What?

August 4, 2009 - 10:42 AM | by: David Lewkowict

In the heart of the bible belt, just outside of Talladega along an Alabama portion of Interstate 20, a sign went up recently. And three words have some residents mad as hell.  

Imagine No Religion. 

The Alabama Freethought Association rented the space to expose drivers to their point of view.  The sign, part of an information campaign, has a stained glass window with the words ‘Imagine No Religion’ taken from the John Lennon song Imagine..  The sign sits high above the same stretch of roadway where church sponsored billboards always reigned. 

Originally the sign was to be placed closer to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, but Lamar Advertising refused to post the message.

In a written statement to FOX News the company indicated, “It is very difficult to turn down business in the economic climate we find ourselves. However it would be more difficult to sacrifice fundamental principles just to chase that dollar.”  The company told a local newspaper, “you have to know what part of the country you’re in. A heavy percent of our population is Christian.  That is who we cater to.”

Pat Cleveland, an atheist, and member of the Freethought Association says she, “didn’t realize there would be such a controversy in Alabama about it.  And maybe I was being naive by thinking so but I just had such confidence that freedom of speech would overrule.”

Many at a nearby truck stop thought the sign was out of place.  Justin Thurman of Oxford, AL said, “I can’t imagine why somebody would put something up like that. We all know there’s religion.”

But Cleveland says that it’s her right to have the sign posted.  While she is sorry if anyone is offended,  she says that there is nothing more American than free speech.

“I’m proud to be an American. I’m a good person. I pay my taxes abide by the law and I’m good to my family. I help people. I believe hands that help are better than hands that pray.”

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