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A billboard campaign that mocks Christianity and ridicules the beliefs of Mormons has been shut down early because of criticism and opposition.

WND reported Aug. 19 that the campaign by American Atheists already had fallen short just as it was being launched.

The plan was to post billboards at sites of the major party nominating conventions, but the group earlier said no sign owners in the Tampa, Fla., area, where Republicans are meeting this week, would accept the statement mocking God or poking fun at Mormons.

A company in Charlotte, N.C., where Democrats will meet next week, accepted the ads.

Now, however, all of the signs are coming down.

It was Adams Outdoor that agreed to post the signs in Charlotte.

The company, however, now has posted an online notice stating: “The American Atheist billboard campaign was accepted on First Amendment grounds. Adams Outdoor Advertising stands behind our position that the ability to express one’s opinion is a right and a privilege of our democratic society. However, due to the public response to the messaging, the American Atheists have agreed to remove the advertising copy in question in Charlotte. We appreciate the feedback, opinions and dialogue we have received.”

Similarly, American Atheists posted a statement on its website that read, in part, “American Atheists announced today that the billboards the organization had placed in Charlotte, N.C., ahead of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, criticizing Christianity and Mormonism would be coming down weeks early.”

As WND reported, one version of the billboard, as seen on American Atheists’ website, attacked Jesus as a “Useless Savior” next to an image of a piece of toast with a purported image of Jesus burned into it.

It also claims Christians have a “Sadistic God” and that Christianity has more than “30,000+ versions of truth.” Christians, it says, are part of a “Hate Promoting” group that calls “Hate” “Love.”

The anti-Mormon billboard, obviously targeting presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, begins with the heading “Mormonism” and then declares “God is a Space Alien.”

The billboard featured a man in glowing underwear, an apparent reference to special undergarments worn by Mormon faithful.

The atheists’ statement refers to the public criticism of the billboard campaign.

“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” said Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ managing director.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny – and this includes religion in all forms,” Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats, and hate speech against our staff, volunteers, and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

Teresa MacBain, American Atheists’ spokeswoman said, “It saddens me to think that our country is not a safe place for all people to publicly question religious belief. How can we grow as a nation when such censorship exists from our own citizens?”

WND left a message with the general manager of Adams Outdoor in Charlotte, Kevin Madrzykowski, regarding the abrupt cancellation of the billboard campaign, but did not received a response.

American Atheists often sets out to generate interest in its cause through billboards and even aerial banners. However, as WND has reported, the campaigns are often fraught with difficulties.

In July 2011, the group attempted to have pilots fly banners over every state declaring “God-less America” instead of “God Bless America” but were stifled by the fact that more than 80 percent of pilots refused to tow the banners.

Last year, American Atheists claimed: “The reality is that there is still a lot of bigotry out there and many companies refused to fly our banners. This just emphasizes the importance of doing this campaign!”

One pilot even commented, “I’m not going to hell flying that sign.”

Last month, WND reported, the group toned it down to flying a single banner over New York City that read “Atheism is Patriotic.”

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