You've seen the billboards and heard the controversy. Now, the man behind the "Tattoo Jesus" campaign is launching a new project called "Death Row Jesus."
For months, David L. Miller and his organization Little Pencil remained anonymous after launching the "Tattoo Jesus" campaign in October of last year.
Miller said they wanted to remain anonymous, so people would focus on the message. But all of that changed when the Lubbock Independent School District denied Miller's request to put an advertisement on the Lowrey Field jumbotron during high school football games.
"They initially accepted it and then subsequently rejected the ad. I'm not mad at LISD at all; it's not personal to me. It's really the idea that any time there's some infringement of speech or there's some action that's taken that denies someone's rights, you often see various entities get involved," Miller said.
"But it's interesting that someone's religious speech or their first amendment rights in this case, we believe they've been violated. When it involves religious speech people aren't quick to stand up for it," Miller said.
When LISD rejected Miller's request, Alliance Defending Freedom got involved. The organization describes itself as an alliance-building legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
The district told Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys that it denied Miller's request because the district "is prohibited from allowing religious advertisements with the use of government property based on the Establishment Clause."
So, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys filed a lawsuit against the district on behalf of Miller and Little Pencil. After a few months, a federal judge sided with the school district, but Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys have appealed that judge's ruling.
Miller, who has a law degree from Texas Tech University, said, "We're really standing up for not just my rights, but free speech is about defending anyone's rights whether I agree with their speech or not; that's the essence of the constitution."
Miller has also served as vice chancellor of Texas Tech University under Kent Hance. He founded Little Pencil about a year ago.
The name comes from a quote by Mother Teresa, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world."
This ongoing litigation has not stopped Miller and Little Pencil from launching a new campaign that they hope can be their message to the world.
"Death Row Jesus" is scheduled to launch on Wednesday.
"When people think about Jesus, they don't think about him being on death row, but if you think about what he did when he was on earth, that's really the experience he had," Miller said.
Miller said he hopes that message is clearly portrayed through this new video campaign.
"We communicate very directly that Christ became the worst criminal in history when he took our mistakes on himself. The second message is we are are all equally undeserving of God's grace," Miller said.
In the video, you see Jesus receiving the death penalty while the other inmates are set free.
"That's the message of the Bible really is that there is no one position better than another to receive his grace and forgiveness yet he offers it for free," Miller said.
Miller said the "Tattoo Jesus" video was seen in more than 100 countries and it all started with billboards driving people to their website.
"We did about fifty outdoor boards in Lubbock thinking that we would primarily reach people in Lubbock, but only about five percent of people who responded were from Lubbock," Miller said.
So this time, they are opting for digital advertisements, which will launch in some of the nation's largest cities on Wednesday.
"They will be very non-traditional messages; they won't be something you would expect probably from a church," Miller said.
He said hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested in these campaigns. He said they did raise some money through merchandise sales with the "Tattoo Jesus" campaign and that money went toward making the "Death Row Jesus" video, so no one is actually profiting from these campaigns, and they never planned to.
"Corporations spend an enormous amount of money marketing whatever their product is and there is nothing wrong with that. We just think in this case we have a much better product and one that's everlasting, life-changing and so it's certainly worthy of whatever we invest in it," Miller said.
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