STATEN ISLAND (PIX11) – “Nobody needs the Christ in Christmas.”
That’s the message being delivered by the group American Atheists in a new ad aimed at Republican State Senator Andrew Lanza.
Lanza, who considers the ad hate speech, called for a boycott of Times Square after a similar ad appeared without any outrage. In a statement on his website he wrote:
“It seems to me that this is part of a continued “War on Christmas” and also upon the belief and value system of millions of Christian, Jewish and Muslim people who have faith in God. Religious persecution of the kind that similarly lead to the Holocaust began with small baby steps of ridicule and hatred of the religious beliefs of others. The same would be true of expressions of hatred levied upon others because they do not believe.”
In response to Lanza’s outrage over the Times Square billboard, American Atheists decided to erect a second billboard where he could see it more often, in Staten Island.
“People who believe in God should not use that as an excuse to be hurtful toward people, and people who don’t believe ought not use that as an excuse to be hurtful and hateful toward other people,” Lanza said. “And so, because of the boycott, the American Atheists have taken out a similar ad on a digital billboard right in the Senator’s backyard. Drivers can see it as they go over the Goethals Bridge and into Staten Island.”
“What they’re saying is, ‘Christ is a fraud. People who believe in that are wrong.'”
Because of the ads, Senator Lanza wants the American Atheists recognition as a charitable organization and accompanying tax benefits reviewed.
“Anytime I see that, I’m going to ask, ‘should tax payers be paying for that?'”
While everyone seemed to agree that freedom of speech, can’t trump freedom of religion.
“I think everyone should have a right to believe in what they feel is truly right for themselves,” Rocco Brognano from Staten Island said.
Some of Lanza’s constituents agreed with the Senator, saying that the ad crosses a line.
“They want to ruin my holiday because they don’t have a faith. So I think they have gone over the board,” Ron Demartini, a local said.
But even the non-believers believe they have a right to express their non-belief. And so the ad will stay up until December 26th or 1 day after Christmas.
American Atheists issued a statement saying they are waiting for an apology from Lanza following his remarks.
“Calling for the revocation of our educational nonprofit status is a clear abuse of his government position,” David Silverman, president of the American Atheists said. “We have every right to share our view that Christmas is better without religion, and we will continue to do so despite this kind of political bullying.”
“Atheists in New York and our organization deserve an apology. We are waiting,” Silverman said.