Holiday Billboard Wars: News Roundup

This week in the news: Christians and atheists clash via billboard and Bay Area Sikh students report bullying and harrassment, among other stories from around the web.

Billboard Wars
Drivers along the roads leading into the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City will be treated to competing billboards this holiday season.

The first billboard went up on the New Jersey side of the tunnel on November 22, showing three men riding camels toward a manger in which a man and woman kneel beside an infant, in silhouette under a bright Star of David. Over the image is a message, in bold white letters: “You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason!” The billboard is the product of the organization American Atheists, and is the latest salvo in public ads promoting atheism. (Previous campaigns advertised on subways and city buses in cities around the U.S.)

“Mr. Silverman said the billboard served two purposes. The first was to get the many people who do not actually believe in God but practice religious rituals to “come out,” in his words….The billboard also stands up to what Mr. Silverman described as a reactionary assault on atheists driven mainly by the religious right. “Every year, atheists get blamed for having a war on Christmas, even if we don’t do anything,” he said. “This year, we decided to give the religious right a taste of what war on Christmas looks like.”” (The New York Times)

The Catholic League responded with a billboard of its own, on the New York side of the tunnel. A close-up image of a nativity scene accompanies the message, “You Know It's Real: This Season, Celebrate Jesus.”

“Mr. Donohue [president of the Catholic League] said the billboard was not intended as “a statement against atheists or agnostics, most of whom are good people,” but as a repudiation to “aggressive, militant atheism” that he believes is growing increasingly prevalent in America.” (The New York Times)

(Over on Salon, they wonder why we need either of these messages.)

Sikhs in School
A groundbreaking report from the Sikh Coalition was released last week, showing that hundreds of Sikh children in the San Francisco Bay Area – particularly boys wearing turbans – report taunting and bullying at school, including being called “terrorists” and “diaper heads.)

“Sikh parents are trying to reverse what their children expressed in the report:

– Seventy-four percent of boys who wear small turbans called patkas felt harassed in school.

– Sixty-five percent of Sikh boys in middle school, with or without turbans, said they suffered some sort of racial or religious bullying.

– In Santa Clara County, 40 percent of the Sikh youths said they felt harassed for their faith; in Alameda County, the number soared to 51 percent.

– In the West Contra Costa Unified District, 85 percent of the boys and 15 percent of the girls reported being harassed.

The national average of students who reported being bullied is about 30 percent, according to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center.” (The Contra Costa Times)

The Vacaville Reporter also carries the story.

Other stories from around the web:

– Christians most persecuted religious group, Vatican tells summit meeting (Catholic News Agency)

– Judge rules against Oklahoma's Sharia ban (Christian Post)

– Temecula Mosque gains commission's approval (The Post-Enterprise)

– Study: Germans more negative about Muslims than their neighbors (Monsters and Critics)