A billboard designed to criticize the Bible instead offended a lot of Black folks in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania area. The sign was vandalized overnight, and the president of one of the groups that funded it issued an apology.
On Wednesday morning, a Harrisburg Symphony billboard replaced the controversial atheist sign. Lamar Advertising officials said they had to replace the original billboard because of the vandalism.
“I take the concerns of the community seriously. However, we also have to support the First Amendment right for advertisers,” Lamar’s general manager said.
People at the billboard site on Wednesday said they are happy it has been replaced. But they said the message the atheist sign left behind was so offensive to Blacks that they’re protesting to send a message to everyone that it was a hate crime and is not acceptable.
The original billboard at 13th and Paxton streets showed a black slave in a metal collar along with a quote from the Bible, “Slaves, obey your masters.” The billboard is in an area of Harrisburg with a large Black population.
The sign was paid for by two groups — American Atheists and Pa. Nonbelievers. Organizers said the sign was their way to criticize the state Legislature for making 2012 the “Year of the Bible.”
Some who saw the sign only saw the picture, not the message. About a half-dozen people confronted the Pennsylvania director of American Atheists. “The message that we want to send, obviously — slavery is brought to you by the Bible and the House of Representatives,” said Ernest Perce V, of the American Atheists.
Perce said the message shows the Bible promotes slavery, and that the state House should not have voted to make 2012 the “Year of the Bible” in Pennsylvania.
Martha Brown, of Harrisburg, said she disagreed with the message of the billboard. “That’s not true,” Brown said. “I believe the Bible. I read the Bible and I’m not racist.” Brown said she drove to see the billboard for herself after work, as did some members of Harrisburg City Council. “I thought we were a whole lot further along than that in this society that people want to express themselves in such a derogatory way,” said council member Eugenia Smith.
“There are plenty of places that they could have made their point,” said council member Sandra Reid. “They chose to use a very negative image from our past and put it in our neighborhood.” So far, it is not the reaction anticipated, Perce said. “The reaction that I wanted is these people to get upset and help me repeal the ‘Year of the Bible,’” Perce said. “That’s the reaction I need.”
“These people…” WTH!