Atheist billboard posted across the street from church in Bearden

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A new billboard on Kingston Pike in Bearden is raising some eyebrows, especially since it’s right across the street from Central Baptist Bearden church. It reads “Don’t believe in God? You’re not alone.”

While walking up Kingston Pike Wednesday, Jared Winchester noticed the new billboard.

“It doesn’t bother me at all,” he said.

Winchester believes in God and free speech.

“It’s an essential key in democracy,” said Winchester.

The billboard is right across the street from Central Baptist Bearden church
The billboard is right across the street from Central Baptist Bearden church

The billboard was put up Wednesday afternoon by Rationalists of East Tennessee, an organization that focuses on the natural universe. The group’s president, Larry Rhoades, stopped by to take photos. He says this isn’t the first time they’ve tried something like this.

“The R.E.T board has tried to put it up one time before, but they failed. They weren’t able to get cooperation from the advertiser at the time,” said Rhoades.

They say they don’t want any controversy.

“Well it’s a recruitment tool, we’re trying to get more members,” said Rhoades.

Larry Rhoades
Larry Rhoades

The billboard will be at this location for 30 days, Rhoades says they chose this location because of the heavy traffic, not because it’s across the street from a church.

Dr. Wade Bibb, the senior pastor at Central Baptist Bearden, isn’t bothered by the sign.

“We’re very strong supporters of freedom of speech,” said Pastor Bibb.

Dr. Wade Bibb
Dr. Wade Bibb

He understands that not everyone in his congregation will agree, so he has a message for them.

“If you wanted that to be a pro God message there then I think you should have rented it out and put a pro God message on there,” said Bibb.

The billboard is located in the same parking lot as Arnwine’s furniture. Managers at the store say they believe in God and hope the billboard doesn’t affect their business in a negative way. If it does, they are open to putting a sign up in front of their store saying they do believe in God.

The billboard cost $1,800. Rhoades says when the board goes down in a month, there’s a possibility the organization will move the billboard to another location in Knoxville.

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