Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Johannesburg church told to remove anti-atheist billboard

Source: The Daily Mail

The South African Advertising Standards Authority has instructed a church to remove an offensive billboard from outside of the Rivers Church in the affluent Sandton suburb of Johannesburg.

The church leaders had responded to the complaint by saying they believed the public would recognise the quote as the work of 19th century British poet and opium addict Francis Thompson.

Complainant, Eugene Gerber, claimed that he, 'felt offended by the suggestion he was stupid.'

The ruling stated: 'In essence, the complainant submitted that the billboard offends him as an atheist as he does not consider his existence to be an accident.
'Secondly, the depiction of a man with an empty head communicates that atheists are stupid.'

The ASA ruling went on to state;

'The respondent submitted that the advertisement is based on Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, which say "only foolish say in their hearts there is no God".
'The implication of the image was meant to convey that if someone does not believe in God, then they are not wise.

The watchdog believed the quotation printed alongside an image of a man shaking his head was likely to cause gratuitous offence to atheists.

'It is apparent that the proverbial line is drawn when advertising propagates statements that undermine the dignity and constitutionally protected right to freedom of religious beliefs of any identifiable sector of society.
'The Directorate notes that the respondent has made use of a quote "An atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident" by Francis Thompson, however this does not justify its use in this context.'

The institution was ordered to pull down the advert immediately and was banned from using the material again.

Do you think this billboard went too far? Have you heard of British poet Francis Thompson, and does it make any difference if you do or not? 

What say you?

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