Ban for billboard that riled atheists

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jan 17 bible INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

A church billboard depicting atheists as stupid has been removed after a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.

The authority recently upheld an atheist’s complaint against the billboard for River’s Church which was located on its premises in Sandton.

The billboard featured an image of a man holding his hands against his temples, and the following quote from English poet Francis Thompson appeared underneath: “An atheist is a man who believes himself to be an accident.”

The consumer submitted that the billboard offended him as an atheist as he did not consider his existence to be an accident. He added that the depiction of a man with an empty head communicated that atheists were stupid.

A relevant clause of the Code of Advertising Practice with regard to offensive advertising was taken into account by the ASA.

In response to the complaint, the church submitted that the advert was based on Psalm 14v and Psalm 53v1, which said: “Only foolish say in their hearts there is no God.”

It quoted Thompson, who wrote the well-known poem, The Hound of Heaven, thinking that most people would be familiar with his work and would possibly respect his comment.

The ASA referred in its ruling to a clause in the code which stated that no advert may offend against good taste or decency or sectoral values and sensitivities, unless it was reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom.

The authority added that the quote on the church billboard suggested that atheists believed their existence was an unplanned event.

The visuals of a man holding the sides of his empty head suggested that atheists lacked intelligence. This was something that would likely offend all atheists in a manner that the code sought to prevent, the ASA ruled.

It added that the commercial would likely cause offence and was therefore in contravention of clause 1 of section II of the code.

The authority upheld the complaint and ordered the church to withdraw the advert immediately and not to use it in future.


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piero, wrote

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07:39pm on 19 January 2012
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I hope the guy who filed the complaint is reading this. You idiot! We've been fighting for freedom of speech for years, and now you come along and behave like the most thin-skinned and whining religionist. Shame on you.

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Peter Trudell, wrote

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12:48am on 19 January 2012
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It is very dangerous to censor free expression in this way. Whether we agree with the message or not, atheists should firmly support this church's right to free speech. There is no legitimate right to not be offended by speech, unless there is a specific threat.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:50pm on 18 January 2012
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As an Atheist. I would have liked it to stay up so atheists could put up a billboard of their own. Free speach means you're allowed to gwt offended but find some way of getting over it for yourself. As an Atheist the billboard in question also does not offend because I know it's just rediculous

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derping, wrote

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07:09pm on 18 January 2012
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Please be derped, everyone will be herped soon

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warning, wrote

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08:36am on 18 January 2012
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Please be warned , everyone will be judged soon.

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JD, wrote

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05:30pm on 17 January 2012
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Speaking as an atheist, I would have liked to see the billboard remain in place. Firstly because no has the right to not be offended (although I do realise its tempting to play the religiots at their own game), and secondly because because the childish nature of it was a wonderful advert for the puerility of religion.

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