Sunday, August 24, 2008

Arizona Republic on FFRF billboards in Phoenix

The Arizona Republic has a story up about the FFRF billboards coming to Phoenix, with quotes from a local atheist, clergy, and a legislator. The quotes from the atheist, Harold Saferstein of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, and the clergyman, Bob Mitchell, senior pastor at Central United Methodist Church, are both quite reasonable. The quote from the legislator, Sen. Linda Gray, not so much. She is quoted as writing in an email that "The FFRF fails to acknowledge history which recognized the strong Christian commitment of those who attended the Constitutional Convention." First of all, how does she know what FFRF "fails to acknowledge" unless she is very familiar with the organization, which I doubt. Second, it's Gray who's talking out of her hat. While most of America's Founding Fathers were nominally Christian, this was the same Constitutional Convention that voted against opening its meetings with prayers and produced a document that contains no references to a deity except in the year before the signatures ("Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth"). It is a document which explicitly says in Article VI that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." Its primary author, James Madison, was a strong advocate of strict separation of church and state who thought that even government-paid legislative chaplains were a violation of religious liberty.

Mitchell, the pastor quoted in the story, is quoted as saying "I don't have a problem with people expressing their points of view in public. ... I would prefer that there was serious tolerant dialogue that might emerge from this publicity campaign because it is much needed." The article says he hoped that there would be no backlash against the billboards, but would not be surprised if it happened. I agree with him.

(My previous posts on the FFRF billboards coming to Phoenix are here, here, and here.)

UPDATE: The Arizona Republic fails to note that much of the money for these billboards was raised by the Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group.

Here are the specific billboard locations:
The five new billboard locations are confirmed and approved by CBS Outdoor. They are on surface streets all within 1 to 3 miles of central Phoenix. Billboards are numbered and say CBS on them.

#2501 Start Date: August 29
Cross Streets: 19th Ave & Fillmore. Located just west of the State Capital area on 19th Ave. Best viewing occurs while traveling northbound on 19th Ave just prior to Fillmore. The sign is on the west side of 19th Ave. This location is within a few blocks of the Capital Complex.

#2701 Start Date: August 29
Cross Streets: Van Buren & 15th Ave. Located just north east of the State Capital area on Van Buren. Best viewing occurs while traveling eastbound on Van Buren just prior to 15th Ave. The sign is on the south side of Van Buren and is located within a few blocks of the State Capital complex.

#2821 Start Date: August 29
Cross Streets: Indian School & 23rd St. Best viewing occurs while traveling westbound on Indian School Rd just after 23rd St. The sign is on the south side of Indian School Rd.

#2911 Start Date: August 29
Cross streets: McDowell & 14th St. Located just northwest of the downtown area on McDowell Rd. Best viewing occurs while traveling eastbound on McDowell just after 14th St. The sign is on the north side of McDowell. The Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center is within a few blocks.

#2945 Start Date: August 29
Cross Streets: McDowell & 3rd St. Best viewing occurs while traveling westbound on McDowell. The sign is on the southwest corner of McDowell and 3rd St.
UPDATE: I was interviewed today by Brian Webb of KNXV-TV ABC 15 News and by Melissa Gonzalo of KPNX NBC 12 News about the billboards, as a local member of FFRF and the Phoenix Atheists Meetup Group. Their stories should air tonight, at 5 or 6 p.m. on 15 and at 6 p.m. on 12. The NBC story should appear on their website after it airs, and both suspected that the stories would air again with footage of the actual billboards on Friday.

This story has also been covered by NPR locally, and is the subject of a very poorly worded poll on Fox News 10, which seems to think that the only two possible reactions to the billboard are not be offended because it's free speech (not because you agree with it) or to be offended because America needs religion. P.Z. Myers has pointed Pharyngulites to the poll, so at least it has a sizable majority supporting freedom of speech.

UPDATE: The Channel 15 interview aired at 5 p.m. and I was happy with the result. (This video is two segments, one 0:41 segment that I'm not in, and a 1:36 segment where I appear from about 0:49 to 0:52.) Here's the video I appear in:

The Channel 12 interview aired at 6 p.m., and Melissa Gonzalo did a better job--she spent more time in the interview, and her piece came out better, in my opinion (but what's with the "Billboard Battle" tagline? What battle?). It's here:


Gridman said...

I don't know if it is related or in any way in response, but there's a new billboard up at Indian School and the I-17 that admonishes people to "quit praying now" and directs them to a similarly named website.

It's entirely a sham, because it redirects to a website with exactly the opposite message... and selling their message at that.

Jim Lippard said... /, set up by "The Overcomers Prayer Camp, LLC, P.O. Box 51054, Mesa, AZ 85208", run by Vaughn M. Pruitt, Sr., an evangelical Christian of Southern Baptist education from Tennessee, a retired pastor from the Dobbins Road Christian Fellowship in South Phoenix. He's selling prayer manuals and Bible study documents online through his website.

I think it's probably not related, but the Arizona Republic's coverage of the FFRF billboards might lead some people to initially think that his is one of theirs. The website will quickly demonstrate otherwise.

Gordo said...

Some people *want* to be offended. "Imagine" is an invitation to use your creativity, to ponder, to conduct the self-determined act of thinking. What if I put a BB with "Imagine if religion lead to world peace"?.

workingsmart said...

Great interviews Jim... WAY less controversial than I expected... good job.

Sheldon said...

You godless bastard! Why do you want to shut down all those hospitals? :)

The first video by the way plays automatically, and even after I pause it, it starts up again. Pretty annoying!