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Good Without God Billboard Removed from Columbus… After Church Objects

I can be good without God billboard taken down in Columbus Ohio when a Church objectsThe Freedom From Religion Foundation got all the details right when it posted a billboard featuring the friendly face of Dylan Galos in Columbus, Ohio. The billboard, which featured the words “I can be good without God,” wasn’t posted on public land or with public money — it was placed on private property using privately raised funds.

And yet the billboard was taken down, against the wishes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation that paid for it. Why?

It’s not because the billboard had any obscenities on it. It didn’t.
It’s not because the billboard denigrated any religion. It didn’t.
The billboard was taken down because a church objected to its existence. That’s why.

There are religious billboards of all sorts all over Columbus, Ohio, and they have remained up despite offending the sensibilities of atheists and residents of other religions, as they should. Atheist messages aren’t being given that same chance, and it’s not a problem limited to Ohio. In Little Rock Arkansas, a transit system that regularly posts signs from religious groups on its buses has refused to post a sign reading “Are you good without God? Millions are.” Atheist ideas are second-class ideas with second-class status in America.

13 thoughts on “Good Without God Billboard Removed from Columbus… After Church Objects”

  1. BannaPeelRepublic says:

    Again, you guys never fail to make me chuckle.

    The billboard was placed on property that THE CHURCH OWNED.
    It might be censorship, but I think they have a right to control the messages
    displayed on their own property.

    If you don’t think so, then how about letting me put a big billboard splash
    across the top of your website stating that liberal ideas are not needed at all?

    I’ll offer to pay you a dollar for it.
    In fact,

    1. Jim Cook says:

      What you don’t mention, BannaPeelRepublic, is that in order to generate money for itself, the Church granted Clear Channel and Media Matrix the right to erect billboards there. They signed away their property rights to a billboard company, and now they’re whining about it. They want to have their cake and eat it too.

      If this website were foolish enough to follow the examples of other websites and auction off advertising space to the highest bidder, you can bet your booty all sorts of things would appear, including messages that would undercut the whole point of Irregular Times. That’s why we don’t do it. And that’s why we criticize supposedly liberal websites like DailyKos for the practice — not just churches.

      If the Church doesn’t want messages it doesn’t like, it should stop pimping out its space to the highest bidder.

      1. BannaPeelRepublic says:

        Lots of companies and entities have contracts that give them rights of approval/refusal. This is fairly common.

        Please don’t make it sound like I was trying to cover something up by “not mentioning” that they sold the rights for a billboard for profit. I thought it is fairly obvious to most people that’s how advertising on billboards work.

        The fact that you don’t auction off space is probably much more a factor of the lack of people that would want to buy it.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          Actually, we are contacted by people who want to place inappropriate advertisements here all the time.

          You say that “lots of companies and entities have contracts that give them rights of approval/refusal. This is fairly common.”

          Do you know that this is the case with the church and Clear Channel Communications? Can you document that this is so in that case? If so, please do so with a hyperlink to a document available for review.

          I’ve spent the last few minutes looking at the actual text of agreements between Clear Channel Communications and other parties.

          The only right of refusal in this Agreement between City of Tukwila, Washington and Clear Channel is the right of Clear Channel to be offered any future agreement for putting billboards on the city’s property first, and to refuse it first, before any other entity can erect a sign. The billboard is expressly classified as property of Clear Channel and content is placed with no control by the city.

          Here’s another Clear Channel Outdoor Lease Agreement, this time for a property in Indiana, containing no clause allowing the landlord the right to approve of the content of the billboard.

          I can find no Clear Channel Outdoor Lease Agreements that contain clauses like the one you assert exists.

          Outside Clear Channel, here’s an outdoor lease agreement between the City of Modesto, California and CBS Outdoor for CBS Outdoor to erect a billboard on city property. It grants no right for the city to approve or disapprove of messages on the billboard.

          This doesn’t show that such clauses don’t exist. But the only agreements I can find don’t have the clauses you speak of, and you haven’t shown any evidence that there was such a clause in this case.

          1. George Bentley says:

            You forgot to mention that the sign was post on another billboard, as to the “right to refuse” I think the fact that clear channel acted so fast is a clear sign that it may in fact be the case here…

  2. BannaPeelRepublic says:

    Dude, you really need to get a real job! 😉

    I’ve worked with a lot of people in the advertising industry, and some with work in billboards, but I’m not about to waste their time and mine to fulfill your nonsensical request. When I say that rights of refusal of content are fairly common, of course I didn’t ask these particular people what they had in their contract. I don’t have the time to waste that you do, nor do I care that much. But most religious organizations that accept advertising and have decent lawyers generally put those clauses into their contracts.

    I still think it is very funny that you never mentioned in the article that the church who didn’t like the message owned the land where the billboard was. That is most revealing as to your intent. Even if they omitted such a clause from their contract, ads that run counter to their church’s message would be reasonably expected to be removed once asked for. As in a competing type of business. Your true agenda with this article was most clear.

    But to help you out, from

    “…Most landowners will want to insert some restriction on the type of advertising. This restriction can be a general restriction on any advertising which is “distasteful or offensive ” or a statement that the advertising will “conform to community standards.” The landowner may want to prohibit any advertisers who are in “sin businesses.” In addition to these general types of restrictions, a landowner may need to negotiate specific restrictions on advertising which competes with on-site tenants of the property…”

    This last clause is particularly relevant. And below is the actual clause from the suggested billboard lease agreement, suggested by the lawyers who wrote this paper:
    “…11. Lessee agrees not to contract for any advertising display on the Signs for
    or for any firm or product that is distasteful, offensive, or in direct competition to any tenant or store in located at at any time during the term of this Lease. Lessor shall have the right to approve any and all advertising or other use of the Signs, said approval not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed….”

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Lots of words, boiling down to:

      1. You don’t know, and
      2. You’re speculating.

      In the meantime, this news article reports that the pastor had to obtain intervention from “local government officials” to get the billboard “finally” taken down, which indicates that this wasn’t a contractual issue.

      P.S. I didn’t include information about the land because I wasn’t aware of that information, but that doesn’t matter if the billboard company leased the right to put up a sign. The church wanted the money, but they didn’t want anything they didn’t want. Kind of materialistic, selfish and earth-bound, if you ask me.

  3. BannaPeelRepublic says:

    “…I didn’t include information about the land because I wasn’t aware of that information,…”
    Of course. That information was in the link of the second line of the Freedom from Religion article that YOU linked to. But you somehow missed it with all your careful research. Sure, I believe that. Why else would you possibly leave the most significant piece of information out? Otherwise it might appear that this church merely bullied a sign on public property that they didn’t like.

    No, instead what you did write was: “…wasn’t posted on public land or with public money — it was placed on private property using privately raised funds..” that doesn’t imply the the “private property” was not the churches, oh no.

    Your article also stated: “…The billboard was taken down because a church objected to its existence. “, which should more accurately add the phrase “on their own land”. Then, it might be a not-so-obviously biased and misleading article. Instead of apologize for that hugely relevant “omission”, you duck, cover and misdirect.

    You posted tons of non-relevant articles on various sign contracts. That all reduces to speculation about what the church in this case actually had and did.
    I didn’t claim any more direct knowledge than you; I merely stated it was a common practice to have these clauses in sign contracts, and I definitely backed that up with a direct quote from a lawyer in that field and his suggested contract clauses.

    No speculation in that.

    The second article you added said that, “… Jay Schmidt, account executive with Matrix Media Services, said that the billboard’s placement was “an unfortunate oversight.”…: The Columbus Dispatch also reported that “…Schmidt helped the Freedom From Religion Foundation find the billboard locations but didn’t realize that the Galos billboard was on church property. …” and that “…The Freedom From Religion Foundation also did not know the billboard was on church land, …”

    Whether they even had it in their contract or not, it appears that putting the atheist billboard on church-owned land was not directly planned by any of the parties involved. Even Galos, the person depicted on the sign, said “…churches have a right to decide what goes on their property….” even if he understandably was not happy about it.

    It would seem that he is more even-minded and sensible than you appear to be from your statements.

    “…Kind of materialistic, selfish and earth-bound, if you ask me….”

    Actually, in a legal sense very similar to the “direct competition” clause of the contract shown. It’s fairly reasonable to conclude that an organization which is expressly non-religious is a direct competitor to one which promotes religion and religious activities and participation.

    And BTW, I DIDN’T ask you. 😉

    1. Jim Cook says:

      The second line reads:

      “A billboard featuring a cheerful student saying, ‘I can be good without God,’ was too much for the delicate sensibilities of a local church in Columbus, Ohio, which insisted late last week that a local billboard company remove the message.”

      It doesn’t say anything like what you say it does.

      And there’s no “contract shown,” because you haven’t shown any contract between the church and the billboard company Clear Channel. You’re speculating.

    2. theotherjimmyolson says:

      This is what you have, “Look, over there”. I’d say fail.

  4. Jim Cook says:

    P.S. BannaPeelRepublic, what is your opinion of the Arkansas case?

  5. BannaPeelRepublic says:

    Please be specific,and not vague. What statement are you referring to?

    The main point, that you’ve continued to dance around, is that the church owned the land in question. Omitting that is a major change in the presentation of the story.
    You mentioned it was on “private land”, omitting the most major relevant point that the “private land” was THEIRS.

    I didn’t speculate at all. I merely showed, to back up my earlier statement, that such refusal clauses are common and suggested, which a lawyer specializing in this area reinforced. Such types of clauses are much more common in any contractual agreement with religious organizations especially.

    The real issue is that the organization who owns the property did not like the message, just as if they would not like it if it advertised sex shops or the like. The message runs counter to their construct system.

    Even if they didn’t have the foresight to place such a clause in their contract with the advertising agency, it is perfectly fine for them to complain about it to the advertiser. That’s everyone’s right. If the advertiser felt it was an unfair request, they always could have refused to comply. They didn’t, because they know in the court of public opinion, it would make them look unfavorable and they obviously did not want that. That’s clear. If they stood their ground, a contractual dispute is always possible. That’s why we have lawyers. Contracts are made to be broken.

    Putting it in any other light is suspicious at best, and shows cloudy journalism.

    As to the Arkansas case, I have not studied it in any depth, but on the surface it appears totally different. Unless the transit authority that owns the advertising space has a clear policy of censoring or objecting to various types of advertisements, which it looks like they do not have, then they are behaving quite badly.

  6. Billboard Lease says:

    Billboard Lease holders can sell the billboard lease for a cash lump sum payment.

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