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Catholic League, American Atheists Take Christmas Feud to L.A.

A years-long feud between two groups that has played out on Christmas-related billboards across the country came to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, a national organization based in New York, posted a billboard in Mid-City aimed at confronting “anti-Christian sentiment in Hollywood” by comparing it to religious persecution, according to Bill Donohue, the organization’s president. The billboard reads: “Not all Christian haters are equal: Abroad we’re beheaded, at home we’re bashed. The differences are profound; so are the similarities. Have a peaceful and joyous Christmas.”

On display until December 28, the billboard, operated by Lamar Advertising Co., is on Pico Boulevard just west of Fairfax Avenue and targets traffic traveling between Century City and downtown Los Angeles.

Donahue said the billboard is part of a longstanding feud with American Atheists, a Cranford, N.J., group that posts billboards annually during the holiday season, indicating that the Christmas story is a myth. The atheist group recently erected billboards in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.; St. Louis; Milwaukee; and Fort Smith, Ark. They feature the image of a young girl writing a letter that reads, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

Rather than respond with ads in those areas, Donahue said he wanted to take on Hollywood, because he believes the movie and television industry are anti-Christian.

“We are so sick and tired of the selective bashing of Christians at Christmastime,” Donahue said, citing jokes made by Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh. “You can’t say that all gays deserve AIDS, so why is it ok for Hollywood in general to take the minority case of a pedophile priest and make it the norm?”

Danielle Muscato, public relations director for American Atheists, said his organization plans to retaliate with a “meme and hashtag” campaign on social media poking fun at the Catholic League’s billboard.

“It will be a series of memes to parody their billboard, using the same design, with the green and red, something along the line of, ‘Not all religious extremists are equal, abroad they use the law to force their beliefs on everyone, and then here …oh, wait.’”

The feud between the two groups began in 2010, Donahue said, when an American Atheists billboard calling Christmas a myth was erected on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel. The Catholic League responded with a billboard on the New York side of the tunnel, which read “You know it’s real: This Season, Celebrate Jesus.” The battle has raged ever since.

“We want to get the message out that religion is not just warm and fuzzies, and that it often harms people with lies, and defrauds them,” Muscato said. “Atheists with religious family have pressure to go to church on the holidays. We want to send the message that you can have a good season and a fulfilling life without the nonsense.”

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