A billboard in Harrisburg, Pa., depicting a shackled black slave and a biblical passage that reads, “Slaves, obey your masters” has angered some local residents and prominent community members who consider the imagery racist and inappropriate.
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The roadside ad was paid for by atheist activist groups, American Atheists and Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, who are protesting a recent bill passed by Pennsylvania state lawmakers that declares 2012 as the Year of the Bible. The billboard went up on Tuesday and has since been partially torn down by vandals.
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In the video below, Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland of the 159th Legislative District of Delaware County explained how he has been offended by the ad.
“It’s offensive. It’s racially charged. It’s divisive and it’s wrong to sit here and place a billboard in the middle of Harrisburg that depicts an African as a slave and tries to pull a quote from the Bible and connect that to slavery.”
Ernest Perce V, the Pennsylvania director of American Atheists, said he hopes to keep the billboard up and to put up similar ads around the state until state officials repeal the resolution approved in January, according to reports.
“We want Christians to accept all of the Bible and to accept the wicked parts as well.”
However, Brian Fields, the president of Pennsylvania Nonbelievers, said on the organization’s website Wednesday morning that he regrets if the billboard offended anyone.
“[I’m] truly sorry that many people have misunderstood this billboard. It was never our intention to use ‘race’ as our message itself.”
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Brett Johnson is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and the founder of the music and culture blog VeryArtistical.com.