Santa Claus has a potentially controversial message for some Colorado motorists this holiday season.
A series of billboards have appeared on some Colorado towns featuring a grinning Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick with his finger held up to his mouth in the classic “shush” sign.
Next to him is the slogan “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness’ sake. Happy holidays!”
The billboards were sponsored by the advocacy group American Atheists, who say their intent is to remind people of the broader meaning of Christmas and the holiday season outside the Christian community.
“We want people to know that going to church has absolutely nothing to do with being a good person,” David Silverman, president of American Atheists, told KRDO News in Colorado.
“The things that are most important during the holiday season—spending time with loved ones, charity, and being merry—have nothing to do with religion.”
As you might imagine, the billboard is raising some eyebrows with those in the Christian community.
“We actually go to church because we need Jesus, and that’s what we’re celebrating at Christmas, we’re celebrating the need for a Savior.” Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family said in a statement to media.
“I think it’s really terrible, personally my family is strictly Catholic, I was raised like that. I like the happy holidays part, that’s OK, but we should keep Christ in Christmas,” Colorado Springs, Colorado resident Vanessa Holdridge told KRDO News.
Yet others are taking umbrage not for the first line, but the third.
“It’s not happy holidays, it’s Merry Christmas,” Colorado Springs resident Karen Vaughn told KKTV News.
Others are taking a more forgiving approach to the billboards.
“It’s a shock, but at the same time everybody is entitled to their own opinions,” Lauryn Mclean told KKTV.
“I think especially around this time [of year], we should be a little more tolerant and forgiving and recognize our differences as what makes us beautiful,” Dionne Howell added.
American Atheists plans to run the billboards in several Colorado and South Carolina communities in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas.