Atheists, Believers Battle It Out On Tulsa Billboards

Tuesday, September 21st 2010, 9:18 pm
By: News On 6

Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- A billboard battle is brewing along the Broken Arrow Expressway in Tulsa.

An atheist group put one up two weeks ago and now a company has countered with a billboard of its own.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation admits it is advertising to draw attention to atheism.   The group says it doesn't mind the controversy that comes with it.

The billboard reads "Atheism is OK in Oklahoma," but members of the group Freedom From Religion say that's not always the case and that's why they chose to pay for the sign.

"We want to let people know they're not alone. There are other people that are sane in the state too. Not everyone in Oklahoma is superstitious," said Bill Dusenberry, Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The billboard was put up next to the Broken Arrow Expressway near 15th street in Tulsa two weeks ago. Its location was not the group's first choice. Its members initially approached Whistler Outdoor Advertising.

"When you have 80,000 to 100,000 people driving by that sign every day, it's our name on that sign," said Gabe Sherman, Whistler Outdoor. "We look at our core values. Does it match up with who we are, and can we put it up there and feel good about it?"

Whistler decided it couldn't and this week even opted to display a direct response to the atheism ad.  Among the ads displayed on its ten digital billboards are ones that read, "God is More Than OK in Oklahoma," and "'Why Settle for Ok? God Promises More."

"Some decisions you make because of what you believe, and this was one of those decisions that we thought was in the best interest of our business, our community, and us as individuals," Sherman said.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it has no problem with the dueling billboards.

"They want to impose their beliefs on me, while I don't want impose anything I believe on them," Dusenberry said.

While he doesn't believe in God, Bill Dusenberry does subscribe to the belief that any publicity is good publicity.

"A kid's going to say daddy what's an atheist, and he'll say, those are really bad people you don't want anything to do with," he said. "But then the kid might go home and look it up."

The sign also references Oklahoma's first senator, Thomas Gore. The Freedom From Religion group says he was the first atheist to serve in the U.S. Senate.

The billboard will remain up for another two weeks.