Fresno Bee Reports on Billboard

The Fresno Bee newspaper has posted its story concerning Valley CoR’s new billboard.

Original Article Here

Please note the following clarifications while reading: 1) the local groups did not use any of their own money for the cost of the billboard; it was fully funded by United Coalition of Reason, the national group. 2) the supposed May 21st rapture promoted on numerous billboards around the world is predicted by one particular believer who does not represent the opinions of most other Christians. The ambiguous wording misrepresents Costa’s quote.

Valley atheists get the word out

Three groups pay for Fresno billboard.

Posted at 10:09 PM on Wednesday, May. 04, 2011
By Paula Lloyd / The Fresno Bee

The new billboard looming over the car-stereo shop at Blackstone and Saginaw avenues made Rudy Cortez scratch his head at first.

"Don’t believe in God? Join the club," it says.

"I thought it was for a church. Then I saw ‘join the club,’ so I got online," said Cortez. A Web address for the group that paid for the sign appears on the bottom.

"I don’t agree with it," Cortez said. "I believe in God, but I guess there are some people who don’t."

That’s the whole point of the sign, says David Costa, vice president of the Central Valley Coalition of Reason, a collection of three Valley atheist groups.

"We’re letting other nonbelievers know we’re here and educating believers in the Valley that there are a lot of people who don’t believe," Costa said. "You can be good without a god belief."

The Fresno sign went up Tuesday and will remain until the end of May. It was expensive — $5,176 — but Costa said it could be worth the cost.

"We will overlap with the Rapture, which is supposed to happen May 21," said Costa, referring to the Christian belief in the second coming of Christ. "Hopefully, we’ll get our money’s worth."

Another reason for the billboard is to announce the launch of the Valley branch of the United Coalition of Reason, a national group that has funded similar billboards in other states and elsewhere in California. The local coalition includes members of the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics, Humanists of the San Joaquin Valley and Tulare County Atheists.

The billboard is around the corner from Fresno First Baptist Church at 1400 E. Saginaw Way, whose interim senior pastor, Fred Delano, said he is not angered or offended by the sign.

But Delano issued an invitation to local atheists: "No matter what you believe in, roll up your sleeves and join us in helping people in this community. I believe they’ll see our belief in God has roots."

The billboard doesn’t upset Jim Franklin, pastor of downtown’s Cornerstone Church, either.

"It’s a free country. People have a right — thank God — to believe what they want to believe, or not believe," he said.

Franklin suggested the sign might have an unexpected reaction. "Maybe it will make people think, ‘Hey, I don’t want to believe in nothing.’ "

The reporter can be reached at [email protected] or at (559) 441-6756.