Billboards showing Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest America holding a Bible were removed from a popular outdoor mall in Southern California after numerous complaints.
The billboards were promoting the upcoming SoCal Harvest gathering – expected to draw tens of thousands of people to Angel Stadium August 17-19, an event the Christian ministry has hosted for 29 years.
"We meet in Anaheim Stadium. We have somewhere around 100,000 people that will come out over the course of the weekend and Pastor Greg Laurie will give a very simple gospel message and we'll see eight or nine, sometimes 10,000 people make a profession of faith in Christ," John Collins, Executive Director of Harvest America told CBN News.
"So, leading into that we take out ads with billboards," continued Collins. "We put bumper stickers on thousands of cars that people lend us their bumpers. And we have ads in bus shelters and wherever we can. And this year we decided to take out some ads in one of the cultural centers of Orange County, Fashion Island, and take out ads to put big banners in the mall where a lot of people congregate."
After some complaints from the public, Collins says the Irvine Company, which was contracted to advertise the event, reportedly mandated the billboards be modified, and eventually removed from the mall altogether.
"Initially the billboard had a picture of Pastor Greg holding up a Bible, explained Collins. "It didn't say Bible on it, just a book actually," he said. "So, it wasn't overtly religious or anything. It was just kind of a throwback, if you would, to how Billy Graham used to advertise."
"Apparently people saw that and took offense to that, assuming it was a Bible. And they asked us if we would change the ad, so we wanted to comply and so we submitted something that just simply said Harvest and had some of the musical artists that are going to be with us on the poster or on the banner and submitted that. But then we were told that they decided they didn't want to have any of the banners up in the mall and we were asked to take them down. And they refunded our money."
Collins sees the incident as a sign of the growing intolerance towards God and Christianity.
"We're not upset with the Irvine company," he said. "It's unfortunate that they're getting pushback from a few. I think there are just a few intolerant folks that are really thwarting the opportunity of thousands of Christians that want to come and demonstrate their faith."
"Over the course of the weekend, a lot of things happen," Collins shared. "In these 29 years, we've seen marriages restored. We've seen families reunited. We've seen people come off of drugs. We've seen people come who were suicidal and be able to receive help. We've seen thousands upon thousands, about half a million people have made professions of faith in Christ. And they've found peace with God. And so, it's just mystifying to us that we couldn't advertise that. What's wrong with that?"