Family featured on atheist billboard are Christians

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Many local drivers have seen the billboard put up by American Atheists, telling people to skip church this Christmas.

The billboard is off Venetucci near the B Street bridge in southern Colorado Springs.

Turns out, the mother and daughter in the photo are devout Christians, as first reported by Coloradopolitics.com.

11 News spoke with the woman on the billboard, who lives in Tuscon, Arizona. She said she was surprised when a friend of hers in Colorado sent her a picture of the billboard.

The billboard shows a teen on the phone with a shocked mother over her shoulder. The teen is texting a friend that she's going to skip church on Christmas.

The sign encourages others to do the same.

"It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe -- and don't believe -- is the best gift you can give this holiday season," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists, in a press release announcing their billboard campaign.

Similar billboards went up in Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina earlier this month.

The mother and daughter pictured in the billboard have a completely different opinion about Christmas than the American Atheists group.

"I just think it's funny that [American Atheists] have two Christian women as [their] spokesperson and [they] don't love God, but I do," said Candy Burns, the mother whose picture with her daughter was used for the billboard.

Both women are devout Christians. Burns told 11 News she and her daughter were helping out a friend five or six years ago and agreed to pose for several stock photos.

Those images went online with other stock photos for anyone to buy and use for anything, and that's what American Atheists did for their billboard.

"I can't get mad about it because I know who I am in Christ, I know that I'm a child of God. I know I'm not an atheist," Burns said.

She said she contacted the organization to see if they could take the image of her and her daughter off the billboard, but hasn't had much luck.

Burns gave some advice for people who are considering releasing the rights to pictures of themselves.

"Read very, very carefully. Ask questions ... do not sign anything. Make sure you know what you're doing. Make sure, because once someone gets ahold of those pictures, that's it," she said.

11 News reached out to American Atheists on Tuesday but have not heard back yet.