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Billboard confrontation: Three Bible-verse advertisements are strategically located Next to Strip Clubs

KALAMAZOO — Billboards of Bible verses have appeared throughout Kalamazoo in recent weeks — and their locations are no coincidence.

A billboard next to Deja Vu, an adult entertainment club on Ravine Road, cites a Bible passage warning about looking at women “lustfully.”

Next to the adult-entertainment clubs Deja Vu and Little Darlings is a sign saying: “Anyone that looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28.”

One not far from Planned Parenthood has the message, “How is an unborn baby not a human being? Jeremiah 1:5.”

A billboard near two bars known to have gay and lesbian customers reads: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman: that is detestable. Leviticus 18:12.”

Each of these billboards start with the words “God said” and list the Web site JesusChrist1st.com. Those same Bible verses are among those on the Web site’s home page, which also links to pages on homosexuality, abortion and Jesus Christ.

The man behind the Web site and billboards that promote it is Shawn Arnett.

The Kalamazoo resident, who says that he is not affiliated with any Christian denomination or church, said that two years ago God “put it on his heart” to build the Web site. He said he sat on the idea for a while and then received a message.

“One Sunday I prayed. I asked God if it was really him, and to give me a definite sign,” Arnett said. “And that evening [his church] who is ‘we’?had a guest Southern gospel singercontext??/ he says he’s not affiliated with a church or denomination, but this sounds like a church event come in and he said that as a kid he had a vision about the letter E, and the E stood for e-mail, and that God was going to speak to people through the Internet. I knew then that God was telling me to do the Web site.”

Tradewinds Lounge is one of the bars within a few blocks of the billboard on Portage Street that characterizes homosexuality as “detestable.”

“We’ve had a lot of customers who have been offended,” said Victor Line, co-owner of the business. “They’re more offended that they don’t know where it’s coming from than from what it says.

“But I can’t say that it’s hurt my business any. If anything, it has increased,” Line said.
Meg Smillie, chief operating officer at Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, said the nearby Drake Road and KL Avenue billboard, just west of Planned Parenthood, is “not something we agree with.”

“Billboards are expensive and the money could be used in a more effective way of preventing the need for abortion,” Smillie said.
A representative of Deja Vu declined to comment on the billboard adjacent to its parking lot along Ravine Road off Douglas Avenue.

Arnett said he is paying for the billboards with his own money.

Greg Newstead, account executive for Adams Outdoor advertising, said that running one billboard for four weeks typically costs about $1,000.

“It varies from location to location,” said Newstead. “It depends on how many billboards someone wants to buy and for how long, and how much traffic that area gets.”

Newstead said that Adams Outdoor has policies on what kind of ads they will run, standards set at its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.

He said the company will not run advertisements for strip clubs. It has run them for organizations such as the Arcus foundation, a Kalamazoo-based foundation that supports gay rights among its causes.

Arnett said that he hopes to place messages on more billboards in the future.

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