A sign company in Southern California has pulled down a series of billboards promoting pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie’s upcoming SoCal Harvest event later this month, citing complaints over their presence in a popular shopping center.
Laurie, according to CBN News, had contracted with Irvine Company, a local real estate agency, to advertise the upcoming conference, which will be held in the Angel Stadium from Aug. 17-19 and is expected to draw thousands of attendees. As part of the deal, Irvine agreed to hang massive posters in Fashion Island, an outdoor shopping mall in Newport Beach.
But not long after the banners were hung, staff at the mall started fielding complaints, including what was described as a “serious threat.” As a result, Irvine asked for the advertisements to be changed so the religious references, which were already vague, would be even less noticeable.
Harvest then resubmitted new imagery no longer featuring a photo of Laurie hoisting a Bible, but the changes were apparently not enough. Irvine decided to forgo the campaign altogether.
Pastor Greg Laurie forced to take down billboard over “offensive” image. What image? He was holding a Bible. In America. Well, almost America…in California. https://t.co/llPfi9CqQi
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) August 7, 2018
— Jarrid Wilson (@JarridWilson) August 7, 2018
John Collins, executive director at Harvest, told CBN there was “nothing overtly religious” about the billboards, noting the Bible in Laurie’s hand did not depict any Christian symbols or feature any writing whatsoever.
“We changed it to a more simplified ad that simply said ‘Harvest,’” he explained, “giving the dates and some of the musical artists that are going to be with us. Then they came back and said they just wanted the ads completely removed and they refunded us.”
This latest hiccup comes just days after fellow megachurch pastor James MacDonald claimed his popular podcast, “Walk in the Word,” was demoted by iTunes after he published a Facebook post requesting prayer for President Donald Trump.
We invite you to personally participate in #HarvestSoCal by doing these three things:
— Greg Laurie (@greglaurie) August 6, 2018
As for Harvest, Collins was careful not to blame Irvine, describing the removal of the ad as just a symptom of a culture increasingly opposed to faith.
“It’s sad that our culture is at this degree of intolerance,” he said. “There’s such intolerance against Christianity that we aren’t allowed to state that or to publicly advertise this event. That’s amazing.”
The SoCal Harvest event, Collins noted, typically draws between 90,000 and 100,000 people, 10 percent of whom often make professions of faith. This year’s event will be holding food drives for those less fortunate both locally and internationally.