By Verna Gates
BIRMINGHAM Ala. (Reuters) - A billboard featuring a quote from Adolf Hitler next to pictures of five smiling children was taken down on Tuesday in the city of Auburn, Alabama at the request of the church group that bought it after the sign drew criticism.
The billboard message, purchased by Life Savers Ministries to promote the church group, quoted the Nazi leader as saying, "He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future." The billboard also included a biblical quote: "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."
The billboard, which had been placed next to a popular shopping center, had gone up on Friday and quickly generated criticism on social media.
"We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion. ... (Former U.S. president) Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said, 'Children are our most valuable resource,'" Life Savers Ministries founder James Anderegg told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper.
"We are a children's organization and had honorable intentions and nothing less," Anderegg added.
"It was put up at client request and will be taken down at client request," said Hal Kilshaw, spokesman for Lamar Advertising, the company that rented the billboard.
Life Savers Ministries said it works with under-privileged children from local housing projects. The ministry was founded in 1996 and today owns six buses and a facility where hundreds of children attend programs from around 20 "rough and tough locations," according to its website.
(Editing by David Adams and Will Dunham)