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Billboards promoting atheist convention denied in Utah

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Posted at 10:37 PM, Oct 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-18 00:37:42-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Their billboards have been denied, and now they’re speaking out; the organization American Atheists said they’re frustrated that their billboard ads have been denied in Utah, and they said it's because of the large Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presence in the state.

American Atheists wanted to place their ads on billboards throughout Utah to promote their 2014 convention in Salt Lake City.  The proposed billboards show students, families, an elderly couple and a woman with text that alludes to the fact that not everyone in Utah is religious and that they could be atheists.

Dan Ellis is the President of Atheists of Utah, which is the local affiliate for American Atheists. He said there is a reason the conference is being held in Utah.

“They’ve chosen Utah because the LDS Church has so much power here, and they’ve never been afraid of going into the belly of the beast and standing up for what is right and standing up for human rights,” he said.

Ellis tells FOX 13 News that companies like YESCO and Reagan Outdoor have refused to do business with them because, he claims, they’re scared of the LDS Church.

“That’s really sad that in Utah even just saying that you’re an atheist could be deemed offensive by somebody,” he said.

A statement from the LDS Church states: “This group is trying to create controversy where there is none. These are decisions that clearly rest with advertisers and not with the Church.”

YESCO released a statement saying: “We believe that our medium is an effective outlet for free speech, however we balance that with a strong commitment to adhere to community standards and to ensure that the messages we advertise are not offensive towards any business, group or individual. We carefully evaluate all requests for advertising placement on a case-by-case basis and make the best decision for our clients, our company and the communities in which we operate. In rare instances, we reject advertisements that we find to be misleading, deceptive or offensive to the moral standards of the community.”

Still, Ellis said he doesn’t see the offense.

“They’re certainly not offensive, they’re not deceptive, they’re not misleading,” he said. “I don’t know how any of the ads would fit the description given for why they would turn it down.”

FOX 13 News reached out to Reagan Outdoor but didn’t hear back Thursday night. Although the total dollar amount is unclear, it’s believed that these companies lost tens of thousands of dollars of business by not posting these billboard ads.