Samantha St. Pierre 3 p.m., July 18
Atheist advocacy billboard erected in Lemon Grove
The San Diego Coalition of Reason, a collection of local groups of non-theists and church-state separation activists, has teamed up with American Atheists, a national organization, to purchase ad space on a billboard off the SR 94 freeway near College Avenue.
“Atheism: A personal relationship with reality,” reads the 14 by 48 foot sign, which went up on the eastbound side of the highway yesterday and is scheduled to remain for four weeks at a cost of $4,000.
“With many of our previous billboards, we've made it a point to challenge traditional religion. But this time we want to show the other side of our coin, that atheism is a breath of fresh air,” said American Atheists president David Silverman in a joint release. Some of the group’s other advertisements nationwide, such as a Chico, California billboard asking “Don’t believe in God? Join the club,” have drawn backlash and prompted vandalism from some within the faith community.
“I don't expect that anyone will deface our billboard in San Diego. People here seem to be a little more tolerant of differing points of view,” Debbie Allen, local director for the Coalition, tells the Reader. “Furthermore, this sign seems well protected. Its base is behind protective fencing.”
Allen says that the sign is part of an ongoing outreach campaign funded by local donors who have been raising money for the installation since January 22 to cover the local groups’ share of the cost. The timing is in part to drum up interest for an event featuring Silverman to take place at UCSD on February 24.
In addition, Allen says, “we have been hosting a booth in Balboa Park almost every Saturday where we have a sign that says, ‘Ask An Atheist.’ In this very small way we are ‘coming out,’ ‘speaking out’ and ‘reaching out’ to likeminded neighbors.”
Image: San Diego Coalition of Reason