Press Coverage on the MN Atheists Billboards

The Minnesota Atheists’ billboards have been up for almost a week now, and they’re getting some decent coverage. The Pioneer Press covered them first, just a couple of days after they went up.

“Some people thought the design was a little amateurish,” said Eric Jayne, a board member of the Minnesota Atheists organization who came up with the billboard idea. “The idea was to satirize the pro-life billboards.”

Atheist Baby in Saint Paul

Satirize them they did, as everyone who wrote about the billboards also wrote about Prolife Across America, who appear to have come up with a fairly canned response for inquiries on the subject.

“If they think our babies are eye-catching and they want to use them, too, that’s OK,” said Mary Ann Kuharski, director of Prolife Across America, the Minneapolis-based organization that puts up billboards around the country featuring pictures of cute babies and such messages as “I had fingerprints 7 months before I was born.”

“We have atheists who are pro-life,” Kuharski said.

“The baby is an eye catcher, and that’s why we use the baby, and the atheists apparently think so, too. They may be helping us. They may be reminding us of the preciousness of babies.

“If the atheists get any referrals for pregnancies, they can send them our way,” she added.

That’s not going to happen, of course, and I have to wonder just how many atheist they “have” who support their scripture-laden ads. Still, it does say that this aspect of the campaign was a success.

The campaign has also done a good job of getting multiple members of Minnesota Atheists in front of reporters. George Kane, who sometimes interviews for Atheists Talk, was featured on local television.

“There are billboards around the Twin Cities already that have a baby on them that have a rather religious message and we just wanted to get the double take effect,” said George Kane, Board Chair of Minnesota Atheists.

This same interview rather laughably included a local pastor saying atheists shouldn’t encroach on religious space, like a local street corner.

Pastor Robert Benke of Jehovah Lutheran Church in St. Paul questioned the placement of the St. Paul sign. Several religious centers are nearby.

“It’s a convergence of many different backgrounds and religions, people who are learning and working together in this community,” Benke said.


“I would encourage them to celebrate the gift of life and not to denigrate those first moments,” said Pastor [Benke]….

I trust no one here needs me to point out the blatant anti-atheist implications of those statements.

In addition to these pieces, the religion blogger at the Star Tribune talked to August Berkshire for her write-up.

“It’s (billboards) turning out to be a pretty popular way to get the message out,” said Berkshire, adding the billboards put out across the country by the Minneapolis-based group Prolife Across America were the inspiration behind the atheists’ billboards.

“They use a lot of images of children and that got us thinking: religious indoctrination begins with children as soon as they’re old enough to learn,” Berkshire said. “If they weren’t given this indoctrination, they probably wouldn’t believe. It’s for people to realize, where did this religion come from? You weren’t born with it. It was taught to you. And it’s possible to unlearn it.”

The local alternative indy City Pages had some fun with the idea, as they usually do.

Pro-life, anti-religious-dogma babies? What will adults think of next.

Even The Christian Post, after an intro that says the billboards are “attacking religion” (The baby army! It’s coming!), mostly just printed quotes from the atheists involved. All in all, excellent press. Beyond the coverage itself, the Minnesota Atheists are ready for the attention, and the comment sections of the various local articles probably represent the first time many of the commenters have knowingly conversed with an atheist. So far, at least, I’d call this campaign a success. You?

Press Coverage on the MN Atheists Billboards
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18 thoughts on “Press Coverage on the MN Atheists Billboards

  1. 1

    “We have atheists who are pro-life,” Kuharski said.

    While I agree that it’s doubtful Prolife Across America has very many atheist members, I don’t doubt there are atheists who are pro-life. We are allowed to think for ourselves and come to our own conclusions after all.

    Nice of Ms Kuharski to undermine the theocratic persecution complex inspired “atheist agenda” message though.

  2. 2

    I don’t know any atheist who is “anti-life”.

    But I also know of no atheist who is pro- “force a woman to carry her rapist’s baby because as soon as it was conceived via an awful violent assault it gained rights that supersedes the woman’s right not to carry a parasite for 9 months at the risk to her health and well-being”.

  3. 3

    Yeah, count me among the folks who think the design is awfully weak and amateurish—color, typeface, photo, ech. The design of the PLAA billboards in question is considerably more professional, and it’s a disappointing that the Minnesota Atheists’ work looks poor by comparison.

    Probably doesn’t matter much for the press-coverage angle, but oh, well.

  4. 4

    In assessing the amateurishness of the billboards it is probably a good idea to consider the intention.

    I insist, demand, implore, and require that all or at least most of the people who have had critiques of the design engage in the design of the next set of billboards. Many of the critiques were improperly proffered. People missed the point and thus critiqued the wrong things. Nonetheless, most of the critiques included very good suggestions and will be very helpful in the future. But they are of no use unless they are used, so I expect every one of those engaged in the discussion now to volunteer to be involved in the next round. K?

    Thank you very much.

    BTW I agree that the campaign is going well, but until I see the billboards debated on our local Fox News station, which has a regular feature in which people debate things like this, it didn’t happen!

  5. 7

    I insist, demand, implore, and require that all or at least most of the people who have had critiques of the design engage in the design of the next set of billboards.


    The design is ugly and amateurish. I can see that plainly, as easily as I can see that a velvet painting of dogs playing poker doesn’t belong in the Met. I can see that even though I have no design ability myself. I could never make an as-good, let alone better, velvet picture myself, but I still have a pretty good visual, critical and aesthetic sense.

    You cannot come back and say “Well, make a better one or shut up, smarty-pants.”

    There are plenty of professionals out there, who do design for a living and have even done billboards, which is a specialized form of communication. The skeptical online network is big and well-connected. I should think a call-out for help could be spread far and wide and result in a few talented volunteers.

  6. 8

    Actually Oxjack if you don’t like something, someone can come back with ‘make a better one or shut up’. You don’t have to like that response, but Im pretty sure being an armchair quarterback doesn’t come with carte blanche to dictate the responses of others.

  7. 9


    Engaging in the design is not the same thing as “create from scratch, all by your lonesome.” The design of these billboards was an open, iterative process. Many of the people whining about the design now did not engage in that process. Not only are they “armchair quarterbacking,” but they don’t even know what the original brief on the billboards was. They have no idea what options were considered and rejected or for what reasons.

    There are a few people who did engage in the process and still don’t like the billboards, typically because they have different priorities for the ads. They have a legitimate disagreement, and they will probably work to see that the next set of billboards have a brief that fits their priorities better. You are almost certainly not one of them, given you’re commenting from well outside the state.

  8. 10

    Ugly and amateurish isn’t even on my map. Effective is the question.

    I offer:
    “Morality and religion are human inventions” perhaps adding “invented hundreds of times”.
    This was brought home by reading Roald Amundsen’s “Northwest Passage” book, where he describes many native ‘eskimos’. A 60 year old in one clan can invent history and religion at will, since none of the others are over 40. He has incentive to make stuff up too: prestige. His whoppers would make L Ron Hubbard or Joseph Smith blush – OK maybe I’m stretching it there, but he has been to the moon.

  9. 11

    If the process for the design was “open and iterative,” may we see the iterations? Would it be possible for you to discuss in detail the brief, the intentions of the community of designers, and how you arrived at the final product?

    I’m not questioning the effectiveness of the billboard, partly because I’m not certain design matters in a case like this. One could probably have just put “Atheism is super cool, check us out at” in black typeface (maybe Helvetica?) on a white background and gotten a response, given the climate in the US. I’m really just curious about the process that went into the final design.

  10. 12


    Will too!

    By the way I am certain that the people running this campaign have been reading all the commentary here, on my posts on the billboards, and on the Mn Atheist Facebook page, so even the commentary of those who wish to complain and do nothing about it are participating even if they don’t want to.

  11. 14

    The design process was done through the MNA Facebook page, where most active members of MNA are also active. At least one of the people commenting (approvingly, after changes) is a graphic designer.

    The MNA website was also used to host an iteration of the billboard on the page soliciting donations. You can’t see that anymore, as the final design has replaced it.

    If you look at the MNA Facebook page now, you can see that plenty of people have ideas about what the next billboard should be. I suspect the Pride billboard will win out, as MNA has a long history of supporting Pride and we have a ballot question designed to make marriage “one man and one woman” coming up in November that MNA has been very vocal about.

  12. 15

    I guess I’m now not sure what my roll should be in in discussing the billboards, or really any other topic. I was under the impression that blogs were posting the designs because they wanted feedback. Now I’m told that unless I actively participate in the planning and/or design I should just shut up about it.

    I can certainly sympathize with objecting to having people who haven’t lifted a finger to help criticize your hard work. But on the other hand, why post a picture of a billboard if you don’t want anyone to say anything about it?

    I don’t want to appear thin-skinned about this. Personally, I’ll try to think a bit harder about whether any critiques I might make are actually helpful. But I hope I can feel free to express my opinions in the future.

  13. 16


    Don’t worry about the layout naysayers. There are plenty of us who think it looks great! Non-professional? Do we really want people to think we are a bunch of Madison Avenue snake oil salesmen? It’s an attention grabber and it will make folks think. That is all that matters.
    Let’s go talk about something else.

  14. 18

    Minnesota Atheists is a grassroots organization, and we’re proud of it!

    I don’t think we need a professional designer to come up with something eye-catching and fun (and hopefully, playfully provocative as well). While I wasn’t 100% on-board with the final design, I don’t think anyone really was. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the message; and I’m delighted it’s out there.

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