|RANCHO CUCAMONGA – A Wisconsin group advocating the separation of church and state plans to sue the city for playing a role in the demise of a billboard on Archibald Avenue and
A billboard with the message “Imagine No Religion” by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was taken down by sign company General Outdoor less than a week after it went up. The move came after the city told the sign company it received 90 calls of complaint against the sign.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the organization that bills itself as an association of atheists and agnostics, said a complaint might be filed today.
“Government censorship is a big deal,” Gaylor said. “What the city did was officious.”
City Hall has denied any role in the matter, claiming it has never controlled or regulated the content of private billboards.
“The whole notion that the city is involved is absolutely not true,” said City Manager Jack Lam on Monday.
Last Thursday, Redevelopment Director Linda Daniels said a member of her staff had informed the sign company about the 90 complaints the city received regarding the billboard.
“We contacted the sign company and asked if there was a way to get it removed,” Daniels told the Daily Bulletin.
On Friday, Daniels denied making the comment.
General Outdoor has not responded to inquiries made since Thursday.
Lam said the move to inform the sign company about the complaints is not unusual.
“We notify all businesses when we get complaints,” said Lam. “It’s not to be interpreted as a request to take down the billboard or not. If the billboard company wants to put it up today, it can without any permission from us.”
The “Imagine No Religion” billboard is part of a national campaign by the foundation to encourage dialogue on the belief that society doesn’t need religion to function. The group has similar billboards in nine other states. The Rancho Cucamonga sign was the first in California.
The group rented billboard space from General Outdoor through December.
Gaylor said the company promised to refund her the cost of the billboard space now that it is down. But she said the company has since destroyed the vinyl image of the billboard, something the foundation wanted to keep.