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Atheist billboard attacks Romney’s faith, but Mormons say it's misleading
This billboard on wheels, sponsored by American Atheists, will follow the Romney campaign throughout southern Florida.
October 21st, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Atheist billboard attacks Romney’s faith, but Mormons say it's misleading

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – When he campaigns in southern Florida on Monday, Mitt Romney will have an unwelcome traveling partner: a mobile billboard attacking his religion.

The billboard on wheels, sponsored by American Atheists, attacks the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its treatment of African-Americans and gays, though the church says the attacks are inaccurate.

The billboard, which American Atheists says will follow the Romney campaign for seven days, features two messages on Mormonism: “No Blacks Allowed (until 1978)” and “No Gays Allowed (Current).”

The first line is a reference to the church’s practice of denying lay priesthood to black male members until 1978.

Though the church did not allow black male members to be ordained before that year when the church head says he received a revelation to reverse the policy it did allow blacks and members of all racial and ethnic groups to be church members. According to The Second Book of Nephi, a part of Mormon doctrine, “Black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God.”

The billboard’s second line refers to what American Atheists President David Silverman says is the religion's “intolerance” and “bigotry” when it comes to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

But the church denies such categorizations. It accepts gay members, though church doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed and the church strongly opposes same-sex marriage. Some gay rights activists say the church is subtly growing friendlier toward the LGBT community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

"People are surely free to disagree with us on the facts," Dale Jones, a church spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "This group seems not to know that there have been black members of the Church since our earliest history, and there are many faithful gay members of the Church today."

Jones continued: "We would be happy to introduce the (American Atheists president) to any of our millions of members of different ethnicity who would be happy to educate him on our racial diversity."

Silverman denies the billboard, which is costing the group $8,000, is an attack on Romney specifically. A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign said she would not comment on the sign.

“Nobody seems to be talking about the implications of having a very religious Mormon president,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of things about Mormons that people don’t know, including the fact that racism is an important part of their dogma.”

The LDS Church has largely tried to stay out of the politics surrounding the presidential campaign, even though it has received increased attention due to Romney’s candidacy. This billboard, writes Jones, is "obviously" about the "personal politics" of American Atheists.

"We have consistently kept out of the political campaign," Jones wrote. "People can see this (billboard) for what it is."

American Atheists has a long history in using billboards to call out religion and get its message out. During the political conventions in August and September, the group put up billboards attacking Mormonism and Christianity, taking aim at the faith of both presidential candidates.

This mobile billboard, however, is a departure from the standard American Atheist tactic of multiple billboards on multiple religions. According to Silverman, this is because Romney’s faith hasn’t been addressed enough in the 2012 election.

“We all understand the implications of having a Christian president. We do not understand the implications of having a Mormon president,” Silverman said. “We are not taking a position on the election, we are taking a stance on ignorance.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Florida • Homosexuality • Mitt Romney • Politics • Race

soundoff (2,468 Responses)
  1. JohnBorg

    http://www.patheos.com/Library/Mormonism.html

    This is the most objective source on an Introduction to Mormonism that I have ever seen. Its written by scholars of Mormonism who aren't necessarily Mormon themselves, but are also not anti-Mormon.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Judging by your name I must conclude you've been asimilated ..

      October 22, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  2. TownC

    I thought atheists were after truth whatever it is and wherever it takes you? They are using a deliberately misleading billboard to scare people away from Romney. Don't they accuse religion of using fear and deception on people?

    October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Consequence

      Atheists do not pursue the truth, they pursue an agenda.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • TownC

      My point Consequence!

      October 22, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Sana

      Ironically, their outward agenda is to "eliminate ignorance", however their billboard promotes it with their twisted representation of the Latter Day Saint faith.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  3. Roger Cotton

    We are so way behind more enlightened societies when it comes to religion. Europe is a prime example of a post-religious community. They don't let religion get in the way of their elections like we do. About 75% of europeans are non believers and we are a nation of 75% believers. I believe religion in the USA is holding us back from becoming a modern, properly functioning nation. You can just see by the comments left on the internet what religious hatred there is here. Until and unless the USA becomes a majority secular nation, we will lag behind Europe, China, Russia, and others that don't have a religious litmus test in politics.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • DrCole

      "We are so way behind more enlightened societies when it comes to religion. Europe is a prime example of a post-religious community. They don't let religion get in the way of their elections like we do."

      This is an absolutely amazing thought to me...especially coming from Europe and China. Several of these countries had mass murdered peoples based upon race, faith, ethnicity, etc. This was happening even as lately as 2004 with China and their relationship with Nepal, 1996 with Yugoslovia, 1937-1945 with France, Italy and Germany extinguishing those of Jewish faith.

      Don't even tell me that they are "farther ahead" than we are...Europe has long been a lower percentage of faith following peoples in comparison to the USA founding.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  4. Spaghetti

    FSM 2012!!! Noodley appendages will keep us all from despair!

    October 22, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  5. Carl

    I challange any of you speaking ill about Mormonism to attend 1 church meeting, then write about what you saw.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • sybaris

      Sorry, I couldn't get past imagining everyone milling around in their magic underwear

      October 22, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Mike D

      Would the magic Mormon Fairies wash all our doubts away?

      Your religion is a blatant fraud, Mormons. Your little temples full of clean cut, well scrubbed white people don't change that fact.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Topher

      Is that even allowed? I thought you could only enter a temple after making certain declarations.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • If horses had Gods .. their Gods would be horses

      Been there .. what would you like to know?

      October 22, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • JohnBorg

      I have. You are right. The service itself is nothing extreme. What bugs me isn't Mormon people. Its Mormon theology. Now, if someone wants to prove to me that not all Mormons believe in their orthodox views on the afterlife or gender, then I'll be much more accepting of Mormon belief. I find the the theology very intolerable. Now, don't give me that "tolerate" me stuff because to tolerate the intolerable merely means to perpetuate the intolerable. I'm not anti-Mormon, but I want Mormons to start discussing their theology with the public. I want to know more because what I've read by both non-Mormons and Mormons is kind of scary.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • Huebert

      Topher

      There are only three of four Mormon Temples in the country. And you do have to be a Mormon in good standing with the church to enter one of the temples. But anyone can enter one of the churches, or is it chapels I forget what the regular worship houses are called.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • Topher

      Thanks for clearing that up, Huebert.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  6. mama k

    If we could trust our elected officials to keep religion out of their public service, then we wouldn't need the 1st Amendment. "Paul Ryan" says that he doesn't think he can separate his faith from his public service. That's a dangerous notion, considering some of the topics here highlighted by atheists, but also in light of issues like women's rights in governing their own bodies. It's difficult to understand Mr. Romney's stance on separation or just about any other issue, since the little insight he does give changes as fast as a 3-month old's diaper.

    Different Christian sects were feuding and persecuting each other around the time of the founding of our government in several states (or soon-to-be states). Because this feuding annoyed our key founders so greatly, they made it a top priority to establish the separation of church and state (and to make it Amendment #1 of our Constitution). This is also reflected in what some of them had to say on the matter:

    James Madison (our 4th President, was the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution):

    During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 1785)

    and then ten years later:

    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?

    (A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of VA, 1795)

    Thomas Jefferson (our 3rd President, was the key author of the Declaration of Independence)

    Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.

    (Letter (as POTUS) to the Virginia Baptists (1808))

    and then of course we have clarifying moments in history such as:

    President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;

    (from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)

    Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  7. gregregreg

    I am not a believer but I don't like calling myself an athiest because you guys are outright hostile to other people's views. You're like the non-believer's taliban. Just let it go.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • sybaris

      Why did George Bush use his military to invade Iraq?

      Because he believed his god told him it was the right thing to do

      The result: tens of thousands of dead innocent Iraqi civilians.

      It's funny how you denounce people who illustrate the madness of people who live their lives and dictate yours based on voices in their head from imaginary beings

      October 22, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  8. Toad

    My atheism is a belief, not a movement or a group. These people DON'T speak for me, and they are as bad as any other proselytizing zealots.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  9. JohnBorg

    This billboard is dumb. However, I don't get the Right. They get mad about this, but they go on slandering Muslims all the time. Mormonism, like Islam, needs to be engaged theologically and sociologically. Mormonism has an interesting gender theology. The problem is that I don't see Mormonism changing, as its theology, in regards to gender, is very rigid. Its legitimated through a patriarchal view on the afterlife. Mormon theology is dangerous. That's doesn't mean that Mormons can't change it. There are Muslim extremists and then there are people like Sufi Muslims – who are perhaps the most peaceful people on earth. That's something that needs to be discussed. Theology will always affect an individual's worldview.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:18 am |
  10. anniem

    Personally I'd much rather have an Atheist president than a religious one (any religion). Religion is responsible for more hate and killing in the world than any other reason. Give me freedom from religion!

    October 22, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Justin

      Religion isn't responsible for any hate or killings. Horrible and evil people are, and often use religion is an escuse or a cover. That is NOT the same thing.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  11. Lindsey

    I couldn't give half a damn about any candidate's religion. He could worship a toad sitting under a mushroom for all I care. I care about real, concrete issues. Which brings me to racial bigotry and LGBT hatred. Those are REAL issues, and the LDS church's scorecard on them is woeful. However, it's woeful on most other religions' scorecards as well. Religious belief is by nature bigoted because the main tenet of most all religions is "my God is real, yours is false, my beliefs are God-given, yours are not" which is why basing ANYthing sane and rational on ANY KIND of religious belief is idiocy of the most asinine kind. This country, to say nothing of the world, needs cool, rational heads to guide it, especially since religious fervor often guides other nations' thoughts and deeds, and perilously so. Religious fervor of one stripe cannot be met with religious fervor of another stripe...history shows us that the only thing to come of such a ridiculous conflict is destruction.

    Religious belief should live in the believers' hearts and houses of worship, and should be removed from the public square entirely. it only promotes bigotry, hatred, and oppression. As long as we allow it to continue to fester in the public square, we will unfortunately have bigotry, hatred, and oppression of either one group or another or both.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  12. Cathy

    Mormon ,catholic or christian, religion does not belong in politics.Would you be comfortable with a muslim candidate? No?or perhaps islamic?jehovahs witness?If Jesus was so loving,why is there so much hate with those that profess to live by your bibles?

    October 22, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  13. Ken

    The left wing hate is on full dispaly here.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  14. DumbStuff

    Why do atheists even care? This is just dumb. They are are not "taking a stance on ignorance." They are taking an ignorant stance. Pointless.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • Alverant

      Oh really? Remember how W said that his god told him to invade Iraq? How's that NOT affecting this country?

      October 22, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • ccaze

      Funny how Christians can say whatever they want about their faith and how the other religions are wrong but atheists. Christians are ignorant (and muslims and mormons). How does pointing this out make Atheists ignorant? silly....

      October 22, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  15. EJ

    I am an athiest and I'm voting for Romney. No president's religion has ever affected my life, but their economic policies sure as hell have. Obama has done nothing to help gay marriage, Romney won't either. And, what will Romney do to the black population? Cut their welfare? If he did, he'd be doing them a huge favor – even black economists agree with that.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Horus

      No President? Not even Eisenhower....a devoted Christian who pushed and signed off on changing the official US motto from "E Pluribus Unum" (from many, one) to "in God we trust"......completely altering the intent of the founders to build a secular nation (out of many beliefs – one people).

      October 22, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Thomas

      Have you just magically forgotten when George W Bush claimed that God told him to invade Iraq?

      October 22, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • EJ

      Having "in God we trust" on the money is certainly unnecessary, but causes me no harm whatsoever. Nor has it prevented this country from becoming more and more athiest/agnostic.
      And, Bush did NOT say that God told him to invade Iraq. That is left-wing propaganda. But, suppose he had said it? It would just be playing politics and justifying the way every president does. It would also not change the fact that Iraq needed to be invaded.

      October 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  16. Seriously

    Switching humans brains into dolphins 2012!!!! No more religious BS!!!! DOLPHINS 2012!

    October 22, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • sixin

      Actually, other than humans, dolphins are the most religious mammals.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  17. Alverant

    "The LDS Church has largely tried to stay out of the politics surrounding the presidential campaign"
    Except for telling people they HAVE to vote for of course.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  18. katfish

    Mormons are misleading in other ways. They are not as tolerant of other religions as they claim. A close friend I had growing up constantly ridiculed my religion (I was a practicing Catholic at the time) to the point where the friendship ended. Years later I came across her and her new Mormon husband and within 15 minutes of meeting him he tore into ridiculing not only Catholics but Baptists and Protestants also. Since these two were raised in different states and went to different churches I have to believe this is an underlying current in all Mormon churches.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • BD76

      katfish- Although I am no longer a practicing Mormon (I disagree with many of their beliefs), I was raised in the church and we were never taught to hate other religions. We were always taught to live a respectful life and to live by example. I am sorry you had those experiences...but it seems to me the people were just jerks. Although I disagree with their beliefs, the people I knew in the church were very caring.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  19. SirToYe

    When Santorum or Rick Perry was the nominee it was all about social issues and bringing us back to being a "Christian nation" in good standing with God for the Republicans, we heard a never ending drumbeat about abortion, prayer in schools , teaching creationism , and trying to end funding for planned parenthood, even stopping the funding of birth control. As soon as it looked like Romney , a MORMON BISHOP was the candidate, suddenly religion is never brought up anymore.

    October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • BD76

      I am not agreeing or disagreeing with your comment, I just wanted to provide some info (as a former Mormon). Bishops in the Mormon church are not like those in the Catholic church etc. They are men called up from the ward/congragation(sp?). They are only Bishops for a period of time and their service is completely voluntary in addition to whatever 9-5 job that they have.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  20. and don't forget

    SALE SALE SALE! Don't forget to stock up on your canned literature and t-shirts at athiest.org's mega 50% off sale. Prices so low, it's ungodly! :-)

    October 22, 2012 at 10:06 am |
    • Lilith

      LOL .. buy your prayers here at saveyoursoulforless . org
      Brought to you by the religion industry .. and we're tax free too !!!

      October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.