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Catholic League Provides Light at the End of the Tunnel

By Randy Sly
December 1st, 2010
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel may show an anti-Christmas billboard sponsored by the American Atheists, but on the New York City side of the tunnel, drivers are greeted by a Christmas message from the Catholic League.

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Catholic League president Bill Donohue was contacted by a donor soon after the anti-Christmas billboard from American Atheists showed up on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, offering to underwrite a challenge.

Now, on the New York side of the tunnel, drivers are met by a full color image of the Holy Family with the words, "You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus. Merry Christmas from the Catholic League."

The battle of the billboards began when an outdoor sign was installed on New Jersey's I-495 near the Lincoln Tunnel. The sign, a traditional nativity scene and the three wise men on their journey in silhouette against a blue starry sky, featured the message, "You KNOW it's a Myth - This Season, Celebrate REASON!"

When asked why they decided to put up a billboard in response, League president Bill Donohue stated, "We decided to counterpunch after a donor came forward seeking to challenge the anti-Christmas statement by American Atheists. Our approach is positive, and services the common good. Theirs is negative, and is designed to sow division. It's what they do.

"So after Christian motorists have had their sensibilities assaulted as they exit New Jersey, they will experience a sense of joy, and satisfaction, as they enter New York City. It's what we do. "

Atheists believe "'tis the season" to advertise. This billboard is only a part of what we may be seeing this year.  The American Humanist Association and the Stiefel Freethought Foundation are intending to challenge the credibility of Christianity through a $200,000 media blitz using national television, newspaper and magazine advertising.

Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, put things in perspective when contacted by NewJersey.com for a comment. He had seen the billboard as he returned from a Thanksgiving meal last Thursday and said he wasn't impressed.

Goodness told NewJersey.com that the Archdiocese was not planning a billboard of their own and that the message of Christmas was too resilient to be threatened by a sign.

"We're looking at well over 2,000 years of this message being part of humanity," Goodness stated. "One message on a billboard that's going to be there for a month isn't going to change that."

The big push this year by these groups is toward urging closet atheists to "come out" to their friends and constituents. They see this as a way to remove a perceived support system that people of faith may think they have. Once out of the closet, the assumption is that their opposition to Christianity - or actually any religion - will cause those who embrace it to falter.

Such a move on the part of atheists and agnostics may, in fact, cause the issues of faith to be more public and discussed in the marketplace, a perfect forum for sharing the good news. This could actually be a blessing to the Church.

Should atheists really want to challenge their constituency to have the courage to step out and be counted as really possessing a superior reason, I would suggest their next billboard take on the Koran.

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Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

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