NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The American Atheists group that had hoped to erect a billboard in Hebrew and English saying “You know it’s a myth… and you have a choice” ran afoul of a higher power: The landlord.
The billboard was meant to go up Monday, much like the one in Arabic and English did in Paterson, N.J.
The landlord refused to allow the billboard to go up on his building in Williamsburg, Silverman said.
“We were all there, ready to go. The billboard company was there, ready to install it, and the landlord did not want atheists on his roof, and he turned us away. That’s his right, because in America you have the right to be a bigot,” Silverman told CBSNewYork.com.
“If the Jews wanted to put up a billboard and were told that they had to move and weren’t allowed to put up a billboard, they would call that person a bigot,” Silverman said. “If someone said ‘I don’t want Jews putting up a billboard here’ they would be seen as a bigot, and rightly so.”
The building is located at 109 South 5th Street and owned by Ken Stier of Stier 109 LLC. CBSNewYork.com spoke with Mr. Stier, who said he had no comment on the matter or Silverman’s remarks calling him a bigot.
The billboard was eventually put up a mile and a half away from the desired location and is now up above the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The location is not as central to the Hasidic community of South Williamsburg.
“The purpose of the billboard is to highlight the Reason Rally, which is a positive event, we did not want to start it with a negative, but here we are,” Silverman said. Silverman says the rally is set for March 24th on the National Mall.
“It’s basically Woodstock for atheists.”
“Bill Maher will have a presence,” Silverman said somewhat cryptically without clarifying what the comedian’s role would be. “People of all backgrounds, everyone is welcome, it’s free and open to the public.”
Muslims near the one in Paterson welcomed the billboard as a basis for conversation and invited American Atheists to participate in a dialogue. Mohamad El Filali, Executive Director of the Islamic Center in Passaic County, extended the invitation.
“I met with him yesterday,” Silverman said. “The response from the Muslim community was very diversity positive.”
“The Imam wants to debate the existence of god, which is something we’re willing to do but not seeking to do. We’re not trying to convert. We’re trying to gain acceptance for the atheists that are in the Muslim community.”
What do you think of the atheist billboards? Do you support the landlord’s decision? Sound off in our comments section below.