Atheist billboard in SLC draws attention

Posted at 9:43 PM, Jan 04, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- You may have seen a new billboard along I-15 at 3300 South. American Atheists have placed the billboard promoting their national convention scheduled for Salt Lake City in April, but some consider the billboard offensive, especially to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

FOX 13 covered the story last year when the group was having trouble placing their billboards because several companies refused to put them up, but now they have at least one of their ads on display and it’s drawing mixed reviews.

The billboard can be seen by thousands of drivers traveling on I-15. It shows a Salt Lake family proudly claiming they are atheists, and does so with the words "Mormons" and "Ex-Mormons" crossed out in red.

“I think it’s extremely important especially in such an insular culture around Salt Lake that we really try and get the message out that there are atheists among the Salt Lake City citizens,” says Kent Kingdon, Vice President of Atheists of Utah, the local chapter of American Atheists. “I think that it’s very important to put people in a slight state of discomfort so that they know there are other people out there who don’t necessarily subscribe to the same views that they do."

We showed the billboard ad to some Utahns, and their reactions were mixed.

“It’s your own choice. You can do what you want. I don't care, as long as [it isn't] intentionally against me personally, I’m fine,” said Emma Fotheringham.

Another woman we spoke with had a similar reaction, but began to sob part of the way through her interview.

“I think everyone needs to explore what you truly believe, whichever way that is, I think that’s an important thing for anyone to do," said Gwen Ruebush.

Elaine Emmi with the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, a group focused on religious inclusivity, also promotes self-exploration of one's beliefs.

“I love any conversation that has to do with faith or non-faith. I think it’s excellent when people are able to explore what they believe,” Emmi said.

The billboard was placed with CBS Outdoor after it was rejected by two other companies, YESCO and Reagan Outdoor.

"In rare instances, we reject advertisements that we find to be misleading, deceptive or offensive to the moral standards of the community," said a statement by a YESCO representative after FOX 13 News inquired about the rejection in October.

LDS Church representatives declined to comment on the billboard Friday.

The American Atheist convention will be held in Salt Lake City April 17-20, 2014.