Woman featured on atheist billboard says she's Christian

Updated: Dec. 8, 2016 at 6:26 PM CST
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A recent photo of Candy Burns and her daughter. Candy, who is featured on a atheist billboard,...
A recent photo of Candy Burns and her daughter. Candy, who is featured on a atheist billboard, says she isn't an atheist. (Source: Candy Burns)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - One of the women featured on a billboard erected last week in Caddo Parish isn't pleased to learn that her face is being used in an ad promoting atheism. 

The billboard featuring Candy Burns and her daughter is one of two that went up last week encouraging people to skip church on Christmas.

Candy Burns says she learned about it after someone sent her a link to the online story.

"When I saw it I was like, wait a minute, I'm not an atheist!" 

Burns, who lives in Tucson, Arizona, says she's Christian and didn't pose specifically for the advertisement. She says she was helping a photographer get stock photos along with her daughter when she posed for the image that was used on the billboard. During that photo session, she was given different scenarios and told to react.

"How would you react if your daughter was texting her ex-boyfriend. And that was the face that I made."

She says there were a lot of different people there to take pictures. Other scenarios they were asked to react to included, "What would you do if your mom was sneaking into the refrigerator and breaking her diet?"

Burns says she thought the pictures were completely innocent. She and her friends have seen them on informative blogs and counseling pamphlets.

"They would be like oh yeah, yeah that's you, Candy. And I was like, yeah, yeah, yeah. So it was no bid deal. So I signed a waiver and it was no big deal. I loved it, but this right here... Uh...NO!"

Candy says she signed a waiver and the group that put up the billboard, American Atheists, legally obtained the image. But she does wonder why the group didn't use an actual atheist.

"They just picked the picture that fit what they were trying to portray. The problem was they picked a Christian."

The spokesperson from the organization responsible for the billboards, Nick Fish, said in a statement that they still have a work to do in this country if she objects.

As with almost any other ad campaign, American Atheists purchased a license to a stock photo that illustrated the message of the campaign.The people pictured in the billboard signed releases and our use of the image follows the terms of that license agreement. It is important that people know there is nothing wrong with being an atheist and that we are part of every community in this country.

Candy says she's reached out to the group American Atheists to suggest they swap out her image for someone who is actually an atheist. So far she has not gotten a response.

"I pray for them. I forgive them. I'm not upset with them. They did what they had to do. I know who I am and I just let God take over. "

Burns said even had a laugh about it with her pastor.

"We laughed so hard. We were like, he was like 'Oh my goodness this is so bizarre.' It's really bizarre because everyone who knows me knows I'm a Christian."

But she does have a message for anyone else who poses for stock images.

"People that take pictures they need to read the fine print before they sign a waiver and take pictures because I would never have guessed that my picture would be used like this."

She says she'll never look at a billboard the same. She'll always wonder if the person featured knows what their image is being used for.

The billboards are featured in four states. You can find a map of them here.

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