Fox News host and analyst Bill O’Reilly is calling on the sponsor of a billboard proclaiming the pope is the Antichrist to remove the controversial message.

“C’mon, you’re making people feel bad, take it down,” O’Reilly told Oregon resident Larry Weathers during last night’s broadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor.”

The sign along Interstate 5 near Medford, Ore., reads, “The POPE Is The ANTICHRIST, Free Proof,” and provides a website address for more information. It first gained national attention with coverage by WorldNetDaily, and has unleashed debate over free speech, sparking an effort by a Catholic group to post a rebuttal.

Billboard along I-5 in southern Oregon now getting national media attention.

“It’s a very startling message,” said Weathers, “but this is a very startling reason why we are doing this.”

“I’m gonna substitute the word ‘dumb’ for ‘startling,'” responded O’Reilly, who himself is Catholic.

Weathers, a member of a splinter group of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, appeared on the program with Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Portland, who is among those trying to get the message taken down.

“We believe that we should have a society that is civil, and a society that is moral,” said Tully, who called the message ridiculous and outrageous.

Despite a series of recent death threats, Weathers insists he’ll keep the sign up through next May, when the contract expires. The company which owns the placard, Outdoor Media Dimensions, has yet to confirm future plans for the billboard.

A decision has also not been reached concerning a request by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights which is seeking to post its own message. The New York-based group wants a sign that reads, “Outdoor Media Dimensions Sponsors Anti-Catholicism.” It feels it’s the victim of a free-speech double standard, claiming no response to repeated calls.

“I can’t approve any artwork,” said Steve Croft, a salesman for OMD. Croft says company owner Carl Park of Seattle will have the final say.

The man proposing the rebuttal message is William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who watched last night’s broadcast from his Long Island home after scheduling conflicts precluded his appearance on the show.

“The owners of the billboard didn’t have to put this up,” Donohue told WorldNetDaily. “A spokesman said they didn’t endorse the message – that’s baloney.”

While Donohue said his effort targets the media outlet, he reacted strongly to Weathers’ message about the pope.

“It’s morally outrageous to trash another major religion,” he said. When asked about Weathers’ sincerity, Donohue said sincerity doesn’t mean legitimacy. “There are very sincere white racists who hate blacks … some people sincerely hate Jews.”

But placing the issue in the national spotlight could result in galvanizing supporters of the pope, Donohue told WND.

“It’ll fire up some Catholics sitting on their behinds waiting for the Monsignor Murphies to act,” he said.

Identifying the papal office with the Antichrist is not a new message, Weathers told O’Reilly. He says Protestant leaders including Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin all held a similar view.

“That’s great,” said O’Reilly, “but we’re beyond the 15th century, Mr. Weathers – at least most of us are.”

“The truth never changes,” responded Weathers.

O’Reilly, who writes a weekly column for WorldNetDaily, told Weathers he thought there was nothing to be gained in posting the message.

“I bet you don’t change [the mind of one Catholic watching tonight], they think you’re a nut,” O’Reilly stated. “In fact, you give anti-Christians fuel because they say, ‘Look at this boob!'”

Previous stories:

Antichrist sign sparks free-speech holy war

Antichrist billboard to get competition?

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