MEDFORD - A billboard calling the pope the Antichrist is still standing along Interstate 5 in southern Oregon, despite the expiration of a contract and the sign's owners' promise to remove it by last month.

The New Yorkñbased Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, which last August backed the Archdiocese of Portland in an effort to remove the large sign, has vowed a campaign against Medford-based Outdoor Media Dimensions.

If the offending message does not come down soon, the Catholic League plans to rent its own billboard along I-5. It will read, 'Outdoor Media Dimensions sponsors anti-Catholicism.'

'They say that they believe in free speech, so they shouldn't have any problem with us putting up our billboard,' says Patrick Scully, the Catholic League staffer who has tracked the Oregon controversy.

'They've got something to answer for here,' Scully says of the advertising firm. 'They said it was not going to be renewed.'

Officials at the Archdiocese of Portland are less worried about the message itself than about the effect it has on unity between Catholics and the rest of the community.

'My big concern is not how people who are sophisticated look at this and see it for what it is,' says Mary Jo Tully, chancellor of the archdiocese. 'My greater concern is for people who feel jeopardized because of their Catholic faith.'

Steve Croft, manager of Outdoor Media Dimensions, could not be reached by the Sentinel. The Catholic League tried unsuccessfully for two weeks to contact Croft.

A receptionist at the company says that the owner of Outdoor Media Dimensions, Alex Kim of Bellevue, Wash., is out of the country. Kim could not be reached at his home.

The annual contract for the controversial Oregon sign ran out May 8. But the space is still being rented monthly to the small church that believes the papacy is poised to make an evil conquest of the world.

Larry Weathers, a barber from the small town of Talent, is chief organizer of the billboard campaign. He and worshipers of the Rogue Valley Historic Seventh-day Adventists plan to post a new billboard in the Eugene area this summer. It will claim that the Catholic Church changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday and in doing so broke God's law.

The Web site advertised on both signs features evil-sounding music, an 'Antichrist Slide Show,' and alleged testimony from a woman who escaped from abuse in a contemplative monastery. The website offers a free essay on the Sabbath day to those who type in name and address.

Weathers, who has counterparts in most of the Pacific West and across the country, focuses his campaign on Catholic institutions, which he claims are distinct from Catholic people.

'God has never told us to stop,' Weathers told the Sentinel in 1994. 'No one has proved us biblically wrong.'

Last week, WorldNetDaily news service reported Weathers saying that his billboards constitute 'a direct attack against Satan and the organization he works through, which is the Vatican.'

Weathers, 51, has been nixed from the membership rolls of the official Seventh-day Adventists, who have decried his work for almost a decade.

One Oregon Adventist who organized a similar billboard campaign in Portland in the mid-1990s says now that attacking other religions is 'not the proper evangelism.'

'I have decided this is definitely not the way God wants us to work,' says John Lineback of Independence.

Lineback still works to distribute a book by Ellen White, a mid-19th-century woman many Adventists consider a prophet. In The Great Controversy, White does relate Roman Catholic hierarchy to biblical evils mentioned in the Old Testament. But she also clearly warns against attacking other faiths.

'In reading more counsels from Ellen White and also in evaluating some of the reactions, it became clear that it was not wise to present things in this manner,' Lineback says.

Lineback says that the money for billboards and related mass-mailings comes from across the country, given by donors with 'strong beliefs.'

Loosely affiliated anti-Catholic groups keep in touch by means of newsletters and even conferences. Some larger ministries - such as David Mould's and Raphael Perez's in Florida and millionaire Danny Vierra's in California - appear to help bankroll national media campaigns.

In 2000, a renegade Adventist congregation from Tennessee joined with Oregon donors to pay for a full-page advertisement in the Oregonian on Easter Sunday.

Les Balsiger, a leader of a similar group in Montana, estimates the national following in the movement at about 400,000.

Last year, when the Sentinel began reporting on the southern Oregon billboard and related movements, more anti-Catholicism emerged.

'We pray that the roman church [sic] will suffer horrible torture,' said one e-mail message to the newspaper.