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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. blahblablah

    I'm an atheist and I think gays suck. You don't have to be religious.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • IslandAtheist

      Then, you blow.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Huebert

      I am an atheist and I think that blahblablah sucks.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @blahblablah

      " I'm an atheist and I think gays suck. "

      You're an idiot... however, what you said was actually funny. :D

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Just because you get one question right doesn't mean you will get any others right.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "I'm an atheist and I think gays suck."

      It's probably because your uneducated and don't know any.

      Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      October 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  2. Him

    Google " Lying For The Lord" which is alright for Mormons to lie as long as it isn't to another mormon!

    October 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  3. Max

    CULT?

    Many Americans, especially evengelicals firmly believes that mormonism is CULT and therefore Romney is a CULT LEADER. Why aren't we hearing more about this. Obama was severely attacked for being a Muslim and he had was to address this in a major speech. Will the real MITT seriouly address this Mormonism CULT issue?

    October 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  4. Henry

    I am an atheist, but I take exception to Silverman and his group leaning on the Mormons to the exclusion of other religions. This guy has a partisan agenda (pro-democrat) camouflaged as a concern over the influence of theism. Silverman is a dishonest fraud, a real embarrassment to atheists everywhere.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  5. Chuck

    After reading the book of Mormon I cannot believe that anyone buys into it. I put it in the same boat of crazy as Scientology and having a leader of the free world from either of these wacky camps would be a bit weird.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  6. david

    So...if my religion allowed blacks into full membership in the late 60's and early 70"s versus 1978 than my religion is ok? Just wanted to make sure.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  7. fitz

    Yesterday I read a NZ newspaper and saw a very unattractive pic of obama in an ad for a survey. I went to the survey which actually was a 'push' poll with several statements which embedded the usual lies about Affordable Care Act and immigration. Then I went to an ad posted by some group called FAIR. Seems that this is a non-profit which has as its goal disspelling negative stories about Mormonism. So follow the money here. And this is in New Zealand. Where else do they do they promote anti-Obama sentiment? Another example of crossing the line of church and state. Mormons have never been known to play fair. Read Under the Banner of Heaven for a look at their more extreme groups.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  8. ForGoodOfAll

    Why would a black person even consider becoming a morman, based on the discriminatory history of such a religious cult?

    October 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • CypressSteve

      First of all, the nickname of the LDS Church is "Mormon," derived from what Mormons believe to be the name of an ancient prophet. He was one of the concluding authors and was tasked with the abridgement of about 1,000 years of records.

      Second, as a Mormon, I can tell you exactly why I am one, and I am sure that my fellow black members could tell you the same. Usually, when it seems unbelievable and strange to a person that is not associated with the group, this is an indication that there is something missing in one's knowledge and understanding, hence the question itself.

      This board is not a place for proselyting so more detail would not be appropriate here, but I suggest you ask any number of black (or gay) Mormons why they are Mormons. You may be surprised at the answer.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • david

      You need to read up on relgious history if you blindly believe many religions didn't struggle with racial issues in the 50's -70's. This was not just a mormon issue. Just this year a black couple was not allowed to marry in a church due to their race.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  9. Charles

    These people don't represent atheism. They represent their own interests in an anti-religion campaign. I'm an athiest and don't really care what folks believe in. Like my momma always said...if you can't say anything nice...

    October 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  10. doug

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized in 1830. The first black member, Elijah Able, was baptized in 1832.

    It is telling that people who feel competent to assert, with no doubt, that there is no God can not get simple historical facts straight.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Huebert

      When were black people first allowed to enter the Mormon priesthood?

      October 22, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      That poor guy must have had some serious self esteem issues.
      Just look at what Mormon children were being fed during that era:
      "We will first inquire into the results of the approbation or displeasure of God upon a people, starting with the belief that a black skin is a mark of the curse of Heaven placed upon some portions of mankind. Some, however, will argue that a black skin is not a curse, nor a white skin a blessing. In fact, some have been so foolish as to believe and say that a black skin is a blessing, and that the ne.gro is the finest type of a perfect man that exists on the earth; but to us such teachings are foolishness.
      We understand that when God made man in his own image and pronounced him very good, that he made him white. We have no record of any of God's favored servants being of a black race...every angel who ever brought a message of God's mercy to man was beautiful to look upon, clad in the purest white and with a countenance bright as the noonday sun. (Juvenile Instructor, Vol. 3, page 157)

      If you read through Brigham Young's pronouncements in the Journal of Discourses when it comes to race, you'll see that he was unabashedly racist.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Did you know that the first registered slave owner in the United States was a black man by the name of Anthony Johnson?
      I guess that makes slavery OK!
      Just like the LDS having a black person as an early member makes their inst/itutionalized racism OK.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @doug

      " It is telling that people who feel competent to assert, with no doubt, that there is no God can not get simple historical facts straight. "

      These are arguments on separate logical levels. One does not infer anything about the other.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      doug,

      Why was a "revelaton from god" needed at all if people were treated equally in the Mormon church from the beginning?

      October 22, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Kev

      @ Huebert, from what I recall, there were some instances in the early church years where certain blacks did receive the priesthood, but later on there was ban placed that was in effect until 1978. I don't know why there was a such a ban, but there was one until 1978.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Tree

    jamesr1976

    You can judge a man's faith by the life he leads. Romney has been a good husband and father, a missionary, and a leader in his church. He gives generously to others of his time and his money. He helps those in need, just not in front of the camera. He considers touting your good deeds unseemly, which it is. He is always there for peoople in times of trouble. He loves this country and cares about it's people, all of them. He is a man of character and wants to restore our prosperity. He's a Mormon, so what? What party do you think atheists support? Remember the democratic convention? Romney is a decent, smart man and will be the next president of the United States.

    Come on now. He is a good man but he is not fit for President of the US.......give me one reason he will be a good Pres.......not he a good man, they both good man.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • JBB

      You would refute any reason given to you...so, why bother?

      October 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Lagos

      Because his business experience and experience as governor are invaluable for the current mess we're in, assuming congress works with him (not holding my breath)? Because he's had executive experience at the state level? Personally, I'm actually surprised that obama's done a decent job on the foreign policy front considering his utter inexperience prior to his 2008 run, but I really don't get how you can allege that Romney's a decent guy (and thus presumably not a complete liar) but not qualified to be president. Really, the only way you can make that argument is if you argue that Romney is an empty suit and a liar.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • LOL

      "Because his business experience"

      LOL! Oh, that's right ship jobs over seas and find loop holes in taxes. This is a great example of a brainwashed person.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • Dearypie

      @lagos. A governor who ranked 46 out 50 isn't one I would hold much trust in to lead us economically or otherwise. Romney was boxed in with Democrats as a governor which seriously hampered his more conservative leanings. Since he's so "adaptable" it's easy to forget that he's roots are very conservative. With a strong right winged house the chances of a moderate leadership that benefits the majority is pretty much a dream.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  12. doug

    By all means ATHEIST.ORG, continue to demonstrate what a bunch of tools your are.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  13. Bible Clown©

    So vote against the Christian and for the Mormon, Christians. It's all imaginary anyway, so go for the political gain!

    October 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  14. Bill from GA

    " The LDS Church has largely tried to stay out of the politics surrounding the presidential campaign "

    So all those ads a short while back ( Hi! I'm Joe the Biker, and I'M A MORMON!! ); it was just a coincidence the the LDS put those out early in the campaign.

    Does their Book of Mormon have anything to say about LYING?

    October 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Lagos

      They've had various billboards up for years, genius.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  15. JBB

    Atheists suck...I didn't put it on a billboard, but it's about as relevant as the money wasted on this billboard.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • IslandAtheist

      How about the money wasted on your imaginary friend?

      October 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  16. Bill from GA

    So all those ads a short while back ( Hi! I'm Joe the Biker, and I'M A MORMON!! ); it was just a coincidence the the LDS put those out early in the campaign.

    Does their Book of Mormon have anything to say about LYING?

    October 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • James

      Actually yes, it is coincidence. The church has been doing a large media campaign around the country over the past few years targeting certain cities. The Atlanta area, as well as Seattle and a few others cities were picked about a year ago which is why you saw the billboards, commercials, etc in GA.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  17. lolCAT2000

    Obviously, anti-Religionists are against anything religious people say.
    But what is their own message?
    That we should all "love each other"...?
    Really?

    October 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  18. Larry

    ah, atheists. insisting there's no god, yet their obsession with religion continues to baffle.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      I just passed a law requiring your school kids to bow to Mecca. You don't mind, do you?

      October 22, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Mike D

      It's a question of power, Larry. The Christian religion as a body weilds enormous political power in this country, which it uses to inflict its will on everyone. You're clearly speaking from a position of privilege, and you don't understand how non-Christians are marginalized. Most galling of all, there is no actual rational basis for any sort of religious belief, meaning its political power is based on hearsay at best.

      It's an enemy worth fighting, trust me.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Larry

      IMHO... I think "their obsession with religion" is about the sometimes crazy actions and outcomes that follow from people of religious beliefs... especially the fundamentalists.

      Creationism ta-ught as a 'science,' no contraception, no choice for women, no research on stem cells, no equality for anyone that is not a hetero, etc... etc... etc...

      That's why many atheists and agnostics are fired up about stopping some of the lunatic actions and behaviors by the socially conservative/religious right.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  19. John

    I don't get these people. They rant and rave about separation of church and state, then demand we discuss religion MORE during an election. Make up your mind already.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • therealpeace2all

      @John

      " I don't get these people. They rant and rave about separation of church and state, then demand we discuss religion MORE during an election. Make up your mind already. "

      Hmm... I think they may be pointing out some of the craziness of religion, and as to 'why' we should keep that 'firewall' of separation of lunacy and government separate IMHO.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • EnjaySea

      Refer to Bible Clown's post above for your response.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  20. jamesr1976

    You can judge a man's faith by the life he leads. Romney has been a good husband and father, a missionary, and a leader in his church. He gives generously to others of his time and his money. He helps those in need, just not in front of the camera. He considers touting your good deeds unseemly, which it is. He is always there for peoople in times of trouble. He loves this country and cares about it's people, all of them. He is a man of character and wants to restore our prosperity. He's a Mormon, so what? What party do you think atheists support? Remember the democratic convention? Romney is a decent, smart man and will be the next president of the United States.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • LOL

      " He loves this country and cares about it's people, all of them."

      That's why he moved so many jobs overseas and he's against gay civil rights, the very thing this country was founded on.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Mike D

      Romney is a vacuous, two-faced liar who molds his opinions on the fly for the sake of political expediency, who has a long history of outsourcing American jobs overseas, who has lived a life of privilege and demonstrably does not understand that people who actually have to earn a living are just as valid as him and his show horse raising ilk. Electing Romney to the presidency is more than a little like electing nobody.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      "Romney is a decent, smart man" He's a two-faced liar, and he'll NEVER be president of anything except Bane Capital.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Ismael

      A person who is indoctrinated from birth to shun his/her flesh and blood in a heartbeat just because that child change his/her religious views, can't be a good leader.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • carol

      I sincerely doubt that Mr. Romney will become the next president of the Unites States. He is, in my opinion, an honorable man based upon what we know of his lifestyle. He would seem to be a good husband and father and grandfather. However, these attributes alone do not qualify him to be president. Due to his background and upbringing, he lacks a true understanding of the needs of the majority of citizens in our country.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:59 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.