As CNN reported yesterday, the Jeffress billboard is one of seven new ads targeting religious and GOP leaders. They're sponsored by a prominent national atheist group, the American Atheists, which was founded in Austin back in the day by Madalyn Murray O'Hair. The billboards are going up around the Dallas and Austin areas as part of a pitch for AA's 50th anniversary convention, which will be held in Austin at the end of March. The bottom of the Jeffress billboard also features the words "Go Godless Instead," alongside a rainbow flag.
Zachary Moore of the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason, our local group of godless heathens, sent along the CNN link this morning, writing, "For the record, the DFWCoR was not consulted about this, nor are we involved in this campaign."
Also appearing on the billboards: Newt Gringrich, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and the now-former pope, Benedict XVI, who appears on two, one in Spanish and one in English. They both read, "The Church Protected Priests Who Abused Children." (The seventh billboard, if you're counting, is a picture of a church, along with the words, "Myths Begin Where Knowledge Ends." You can view all of them here).
A debate has already erupted over whether Sarah Palin is misquoted on her billboard, which reads, "We should create law based on the God of the Bible." CNN says she was, while famously combative AA president Dave Silverman insists on Twitter that she's quoted accurately. We're with CNN on this one -- the Huffington Post article on which the billboard is based quotes Palin as saying: "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the 10 Commandments." In other words, AA got the gist of her statement right, but what's on the billboard is not what she said verbatim.
Six of the billboards will be in the Austin area, including the Jeffress one, while the church image will appear on Interstate 30. No response from Jeffress himself yet, although God knows he'll probably have something to say.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that the Jeffress billboard will be on I-30 in Dallas. We've corrected it to reflect that the church image will be displayed in Dallas. Sorry about that, American Atheists, who just tweeted that correction at us.
Update, March 5: Dave Muscato, the PR director of the American Atheists, wrote yesterday in a guest post on the Friendly Atheist that AA will issue an official apology to Palin for misquoting her. That said, he writes, they may not use the Palin billboard at all. The original plan had been to use two different designs featuring Rick Perry and George W. Bush, Muscato says. But this being where it is and all, "we were unable to find a billboard company in Texas willing to run either of them." Bush's billboard reads, "I trust God speaks through me," while Perry's reads, "His solution to school shootings? PRAYER."
But Muscato writes that the billboard company who originally refused them changed their minds after being contacted by CNN. "They have agreed to run our original designs after all," he writes, "so that is what we intend to do: The Rick Perry billboard will go up in his hometown of Austin, and the Bush billboard in his respective hometown of Dallas... unless the billboard company changes its mind again."
Bush was born in New Haven, Connecticut and Perry is from Paint Creek, but their point is pretty clear. Keep your eyes peeled for George Bush's enormous visage on some yet-to-be-named highway, we guess.