December 23rd, 2010
05:44 PM ET
By Emanuella Grinberg and Nicole Saidi, CNN
An atheist billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel that declared Christmas a "myth" has been replaced by a pro-Christian billboard.
The old billboard, put up in late November by the American Atheists organization, said "You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason."
The sign stirred controversy among Christian organizations, prompting the Catholic League to erect its own pro-Christmas billboard on the New York side of the tunnel that read, "You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus."
The new sign, which was posted by the Manhattan-based Times Square Church, reads "God is," and includes a word cloud of religious themes.
The sign is a direct response to "atheist billboards near the Lincoln Tunnel declaring Christmas a myth," the church said on its website.
"We want to encourage people to seek God and prove that indeed He is," senior Pastor Connor Conlon said. The ad originally ran as part of a subway ad campaign Times Square Church ran in January 2010.
iReporter Lulis Leal noticed the new sign while passing through the Lincoln Tunnel and shared photos of it with iReport. She said people on both sides of the issue are talking about the latest billboard. She said she's even observed people arguing about it.
As for the old sign, an American Atheists spokesman said the organization's lease ran out on the space, as they'd only had it reserved for a month.
"They have First Amendment rights," spokesman Blair Scott said.
Since putting down $20,000 for the billboard, the group has earned $65,000 in donations, which Scott attributed to the national publicity it garnered - with a little help from the Catholic League.
"We received e-mails from hundreds of agnostics and atheists who heard about the billboard and had never heard about us who thanked us for being there and letting them know they're not alone, and that was our target audience from the get-go," he said.
"We sent the Catholic League a thank-you letter."
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