An Orange County group of skeptics, “with a heavy atheist ‘bent,’” have become tongue-tied in their campaign for secularism. California-based Backyard Skeptics head Bruce Gleason used $4,000 in anonymous donations to put up billboards with an anti-Christian Thomas Jefferson quote he had discovered.
Gleason, however, is now apologizing to the secular community after news broke that The Jefferson Library Collection at Monticello could not find any such quote from the third U.S. president in their records. Gleason now insists that he may have misquoted Jefferson, but did not misrepresent his ideas, and put the billboard up in”good faith.” His words, not ours. ABC News on the controversy:
The billboard harshly read “I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature. It is founded on fables and mythology,” which Gleason has since tracked back to 1906 from an unknown author. Since the quote’s inaccuracy was revealed, Gleason has taken responsibility for the misquotation in order to deflect criticism onto himself rather than the group’s mission.
“The billboard hurts us, because there are other religious people who have said, ‘Look at those atheists, they’re misquoting Jefferson.’ Well I take it upon myself to say, yes I made a mistake,” Gleason told ABC.
In addition to buying billboard space, the Backyard Skeptics offers fellow non-believers “monthly meetings with interesting speakers as well as movie nights, science-oriented field trips, social dinner nights and outreach programs.”
The Orange County Register reports that Gleason’s group got attention last month for tearing out pages of the Bible at Huntington Beach pier, and has put billboards up in the past in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, and Orange recently, and in Westminster in May.
Gleason told ABC that he plans to replace the billboard with another, holding true to the same secular message.