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Censoring atheist billboard?

An atheist group is considering a human rights complaint after a billboard company refused to run its advertisements in downtown Vancouver.

The Centre for Inquiry Canada created two billboard designs playing on Bible verses, with one depicting a smiling woman holding a coffee next to the words “Jenn 13:1.”

Underneath it reads, “Praying won’t help. Doing will.”

CFI Canada board member Pat O’Brien said the organization submitted the ads to Pattison Outdoor but was told they were unacceptable.

“What they asked us to do was come back with a redesign and they would consider that,” O’Brien said. “We don’t think it’s the place of the billboard company to determine what our message should be.”

The group also said it can’t afford to redesign the ad, which was funded by an anonymous donation of $20,000. The giver stipulated that the money should go toward a billboard for the organization in the Vancouver area.

Pattison Outdoor told CTV News it had no issue with the nature of the ad, but required minor changes to comply with guidelines.

“We’re not banning them from running their ad. It’s not a freedom of speech issue, it’s simply that we have guidelines in our company in regards to advocacy advertising which we try to follow,” president Randy Otto said.

“They refused to make any changes to the copy whatsoever.”

Otto said the company requires advocacy groups to be clearly identified and provide a way to contact them.

The ads CFI Canada showed CTV News contain the organization’s full name and website address.

O’Brien said asking the group to redesign its ad amounts to “censorship by bankruptcy.”

“We had already spent our design budget, we’re a small organization with a limited amount of money to spend,” he said.

The group is seeking legal advice, but said it may end up contacting other advertising agencies.

O’Brien said CFI Canada is hoping to have the ad up in time for its year-end fundraising, and a Human Rights Tribunal case could take months.





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