Just in time for Easter, the irrepressible atheists over at the Dallas-Fort Worth Coalition of Reason are back.
You'll recall that back in February, the group erected a South Dallas billboard in praise of black free-thinkers. This time around, for a campaign they've dubbed "Our Families Are Great Without Religion," they're using photos of happy, smiling, presumably godless families (and one dachshund, who's obviously a total heathen). They're planning a billboard along Interstate 30, as well as a video ad at Movie Tavern's Arlington location. The video ad was set to run before the previews for a full six months.
Not so fast, Movie Tavern says.
Last night, Fox 4 ran an interview with a local atheist couple who are part of DFWCoR. The station also reported that Movie Tavern was refusing to run the group's ad. Zachary Moore, a DFWCoR spokesperson, told me Fox 4's Mark Jones got in touch with him last night with the news that the chain's president had called the station to say they were pulling the ad. ( Update, 5:20 p.m.: Movie Tavern's PR person denies the president ever made that call.)
Moore knew last week that Movie Tavern and Clear Channel, which owns the billboard on I-30, were both feeling a bit skittish about running the ads.
"The Movie Tavern folks were very sensitive to any mention of God or religion, while the billboard company (Clear Channel) refused to let us use our original slogan 'Our Families are Great Without God,' because of the use of 'God,'" he told me in an email. "Some of these companies are getting pretty gun-shy about atheist advertising, I think, because it's gotten really popular and always stirs up controversy."
But DFWCoR has already written a check for $2932 and signed a contract with Movie Tavern's advertising folks, Screenvision, Moore said. "The check was cashed weeks ago. I just confirmed with our Screenvision contact that the ad was disallowed by the Tavern. Which technically they can do, but it had already been approved. My question is, have they ever allowed churches to advertise? Screenvision wouldn't confirm either way."
"We have never in the history of Movie Tavern run an ad of a religious nature," Mary Lester told us just now. She's with MPL Public Relations, which is handling PR for Movie Tavern. "And we never will," she added, very firmly. "Because of the digital age, we have five days to review" an ad before it runs, she said. "We hadn't gotten along far enough in our process to have caught that it was an ad of a religious nature."
Because we're obnoxious, we asked if an atheist ad isn't, by definition, the opposite of a religious ad.
"We would associate that with an ad of religious nature, just because it's pro or against," Lester replied. "This ad never ran and it never will run."
Well, then. Here are the rest of the ads, in case they run into similar hiccups with Clear Channel.