IRVINE (CBSLA) — A billboard advertising an Orange County Christian event that has been held for nearly three decades and draws roughly 100,000 people every summer has been taken down over reported complaints and an alleged threat.
The ad for SoCal Harvest – formerly known as the Harvest Crusade – featured an image of pastor Greg Laurie of Riverside’s Harvest Christian Fellowship with a microphone in one hand and an untitled book in the other.
It went up at Fashion Island in Newport Beach on July 19 until it was removed by the mall’s owner, Irvine Company on Aug. 3, according to the Orange County Register.
Harvest Executive Pastor John Collins told the Register the church was told the move was blamed on “complaints [Irvine Co.] had received and there was a threat that they had received”.
Newport Beach Police Sgt. Peter Carpentieri told the Register police were “not aware of any threat regarding the Harvest ad being reported to the department.”
A similar ad that was on display at the Irvine Spectrum – also owned by Irvine Co. – was taken down and the church was refunded for the ad.
In a blog post Tuesday titled “For Some, the Bible Is Offensive”, Laurie explained the image was inspired in part by old photos of former White House adviser and renowned preacher Billy Graham.
He also confirmed that the book depicted in the billboard was intended to be seen as the Bible.
“If you look closely at the book I am holding up, it does not say ‘Bible.’ There is no cross on it. Yet, the image of someone holding a book up is now offensive to some. (It is indeed a Bible.)”, Laurie wrote.
Despite the move by Irvine Co., Laurie says he “enjoyed working” with them and “hope[s] to work with them in the future.”
2018 SoCal Harvest will take place Aug. 17 – 19 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.