Awesome New Billboard Campaign: "Please Don't Label Me"

This is absolutely spectacular! I really do dig the fact that the non-believer world is getting out the billboards, bus, and subway ads. But some of it is starting to feel a little bit like a broken record, listening to the same news story over and over of believers condemning them and being offended by them. Don't get me wrong, keep the billboards coming, especially when the presentation and phrasing get some change-up.

The Billboard Campaign: "Please Don't Label Me"

In the last two weeks of November 2009 billboards at four locations in the UK will display some of the labels routinely applied to children that imply beliefs, such as 'Catholic', 'Protestant', 'Muslim', 'Hindu' or 'Sikh', together with labels that people would never apply to young children such as 'Marxist', 'Anarchist', 'Socialist', 'Libertarian' or 'Humanist' (see images). In front of the shadowy labels are happy children, with the slogan, "Please don't label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself" in the now world-famous font of the prior Atheist Bus Campaign.

The billboards are being unveiled to coincide with Universal Children's Day, 20 November, which is the United Nations 'day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children'. Labelling children as if they innately "belong" to a particular religion, while ascribing incompatible beliefs to infants who "belong" to other religions, can only serve as an obstacle to understanding between children around the world.


You can support our work on children's rights, education and faith schools by donating at www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools and you can find out more about how to promote the campaign at www.humanism.org.uk/billboards/promote

Where did the campaign come from?

The Don't Label Me billboards (November 2009) grew out of the Atheist Bus Campaign.

Based on an idea by comedy writer Ariane Sherine and supported by the British Humanist Association and our Vice President Richard Dawkins, the Bus campaign appealed for funds in October 2008 and hit the roads on 6 January 2009, with dozens of bus routes across the UK carrying the message, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."


Many people gave generously to fund this message - so many in fact that after the bus ads ran we announced we would put further money donated toward a similar campaign later in the year. This is the Atheist Billboard Campaign.

Many people who supported the Atheist Bus Campaign left comments on the JustGiving pages as they donated (the original Bus Campaign appeal page is now closed; see the new Billboard Campaign fundraising page). These messages were overwhelmingly positive, celebratory and fun - despite being web-based comments on a controversial issue! Many Atheist Bus supporters raised issues to do with equality, autonomy and children's freedom to grow up and decide for themselves what they believe. Here are just a few:

"Equality for all!" - Lucy, 21 October 2008 "Any chance of NO Faith schools next!" - Mark, 21 October 2008 "This is for my kids" - Helen, 21 October 2008
"And let's have other slogans - "Stop tax-payer funding of faith schools"" - John, 21 October 2008
"Let's get religion away from kids" - Paul, 16 December 2008
"Time to stop the "good" of religion and mind-control from being given the hard-sell only-option and thrust in the face of all, particularly children" - Rob, 6 January 2009
"I was annoyed about the bus driver [who refused to drive a bus with our advert on] as I am about the rise in faith schools and...well, you all know the rest." - Carl, 16 January 2009
"Bishop [a recurring, generous donor] for Sainthood! ... More £ to the anti faith schools campaign people, nearly there!" - Tim, 16 January 2009
"Please target faith schools." - Julian, 3 February 2009
"Now that is progress...but pls leave the little brains alone" - JJ, 5 February 2009
"The advertising should continue with a new focus---SCHOOLS" - Peter, 6 February
"Please won't somebody think of the children" - Rich, 23 February 2009

Speaking of the launch of the Atheist Billboard Campaign, Ariane Sherine said:

"One of the issues raised again and again by donors to the campaign was the issue of children having the freedom to grow up and decide for themselves what they believe, and that we should not label children with any ideology. I hope this poster campaign will encourage the government, media and general public to see children as individuals, free to make their own choices, and accord them the liberty and respect they deserve."

What's the big idea?

In The God Delusion Richard Dawkins (Vice President of the BHA, President of RDFRS, and co-sponsor of the campaign) argued that we need to change the way we speak about beliefs attributed to children - and by extension change the way we think if we presuppose particular religious beliefs of children.

There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents. ... Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder. Everybody's consciousness should be raised to this level.

The Atheist Billboard campaign mirrors this argument.

Speaking of the launch of the Atheist Billboard Campaign, Dawkins added:

"We urgently need to raise consciousnesses on this issue. Nobody would seriously describe a tiny child as a 'Marxist child' or an 'Anarchist child' or a 'Post-modernist child'. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. We need to encourage people to think carefully before labelling any child too young to know their own opinions and our adverts will help to do that."

What do you hope to achieve?

Many times in recent history, society has revised phrases and habits of language in order to expose and overcome the hidden assumptions they contain. Sometimes these assumptions seriously and negatively affect the way people think about themselves and each other.

The direct purpose of this campaign is to raise consciousness about a way of referring to children which has strong implications for how the child may think about themselves and how others think about the child, constraining their freedom of thought and belief.

We believe that labelling children is divisive because it:
  • leads to segregation, either socially (as in faith schools) and even interpersonally (between children who are told they "belong" to different and incompatible religions)
  • restricts learning about other beliefs because the child told that they "belong" to x religion may rule out other options or become hostile to them
  • creates negative attitudes to other people's beliefs, because labelling has the effect of making a belief seem "intrinsic" to the individual child, rendering those of other religions intrinsically different and 'Other'
We also believe that labelling children is coercive because it:
  • places an expectation on the child to conform to her parents beliefs
  • removes choice and decreases autonomy by limiting the options available; by constraining the child to think that their religion is "a given".
  • can act as a threat, either because there is an implied risk of parental disassociation if the child rejects the religious beliefs, or because inherent in the religion itself are explicit metaphysical dangers (judgment, Hellfire etc) associated with disbelief or apostasy.
  • There is also an indirect aim, to draw attention and support to the work of the BHA on issues of children's rights, freedom of belief and education, which we have long campaigned on. See below.

    Read more answers to your questions in our Billboards "Critical Thinking" FAQ

    What can I do?

    One indirect aim of the Billboard Campaign is to support the work of the British Humanist Association in its campaigns on education, children's rights, and faith schools. We are raising money to fund this work and to continue employing our dedicated Faith Schools and Education Campaigns officer. See www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools

    The BHA campaigns:
    • to phase out 'faith' schools, in favour of inclusive schools with no religious admissions policies
    • for reform of RE (Religious Education), in favour of balanced teaching about different beliefs and values
    • for a repeal of the legal requirement of 'collective worship' which applies even in community schools
    • against Creationism and pseudo-science especially the threat they represent to good teaching in schools
    • for wider improvements to values and moral education across the school curriculum; improved Sex and Relationships Education, Citizenship Education and inclusion of Philosophy

    Our campaigner will make sure that the voice of UK citizens who oppose faith schools is represented in the most powerful way. To do this our campaigner helps to stimulate and organise local campaigns against new faith schools and lobby government and parliament to reform the laws that allow state funded schools to discriminate on religious grounds, that requires they provide collective worship and to teach unbalanced curricula of religious education."

    We fundraised for this post last year, too, and since then we have:
    There are many other ways to support the BHA and to take part in all our campaigns. But again, if you support the message of the Atheist Billboard Campaign, then you can put your money where your mind is at http://www.justgiving.com/nofaithschools.

Views: 26

Tags: Billboard Campaign, Please Don't Label Me, Richard Dawkins, atheist

Comment by Johnny on November 18, 2009 at 9:41pm
Comment by David Capito on November 18, 2009 at 10:15pm
I was amazed the first time I saw this picture. Well done!
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on November 18, 2009 at 11:40pm
Thanks for the share!
Comment by Morgan Matthew on November 18, 2009 at 11:51pm
Pretty awesome :] How can you go wrong with little kids :P
Comment by Shine on November 19, 2009 at 2:28pm
I like these even better than the original campaign.
Comment by a7 on November 19, 2009 at 5:59pm
great informaative post, a wee donation will be wishing it's way there shortly. I also prefer this ad to the first.

Take care

George
Comment by Johnny on November 20, 2009 at 4:26pm
Comment by Shine on November 21, 2009 at 2:45pm
Lol, just stumbled across this article:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article6925781.ece

Apparently, evangelicals find it uproariously funny that the children picture are being raised by Christian parents; in fact, their father is listed as "something of a celebrity within evangelical circles." However, the entire point of the campaign seems to escape everyone as they continually refer to them as "Christian children." Apparently, the children have the expressions of liberated joy that the evil humanists sought for their picture because these kids are being exposed to Christian dogma. Right, because kids don't look like that when you hold them upside down and blow raspberries on their tummies. Apparently, Jesus produces the same effect as simple inversion. Go figure.
Comment by Johnny on November 21, 2009 at 3:13pm
I posted the link on FB, and my aunt responded with this:
"People seldom choose wisely unless they have been taught wisely. It is hard to make a wise decision with only one side of the facts."
Irony is completely lost on her. She raised her boys in a strict SDA home, on a farm 20 miles from the nearest town, with no television, and no friends that didn't go to the same church; and of course homeschooling both of them 100%. She limited their exposure to the real-world completely. Both live with her, one never moved out, the other had a mental break after moving out to go to college; both are in their late 30s.
Comment by Johnny on November 23, 2009 at 4:55pm
The Kids in the “Don’t Label Me” Ads Are Not Evangelicals

"These are not Christian children. They are the children of Christian parents."

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