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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. MikeB

    Nevermind the fine print. That's just CYA.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  2. Rational Thought

    To everyone claiming that atheists are not violent, please go read about Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot. I believe the three alone are responsible for some of the greatest genocides in our world's history.

    The biggest problem of American Christianity is that most followers know very little about the faith they profess to have, and actually follow the commands they were given even less.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And here we go again.
      The leaders you mention did not wave a flag of atheism for their people to rally around.
      Because they put themselves into the godhead position to be worshipped, they are more technically "Autotheists" than atheists.
      Furthermore, they would not have been charismatic enough to gain converts to their cults of personality were it not for their religious educations.
      Pol Pot spent 8 years at a Catholic school in Phnom Penh and Stalin 5 years at a Russian orthodox seminary. Historians have noted their speaking and writing styles ape those of the Church in being 'declamatory and repet.itive, with liturgical overtones”.
      Those leaders wielded their people's predilection for faith as a weapon.
      They demanded blind obedience and obsequious submission from their followers.
      They tolerated no free-thinkers and enforced dogmatism – just as religion does.
      Atheism is not the prime cause for these tragic regimes – the misdirection of faith is.
      And that is why faith is not a virtue.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      Did you hear the one about the Canadian that minded its own business?

      October 22, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Atheists most certainly can be violent, but please show some evidence that they are violent BECAUSE they are atheist or your point is a fallacy.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Doc V.

      Thanks brother... you beat me to it. And... said it much better than I would have.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Dodney Rangerfield

      You won't the ass hole is always on here pretending to be an American and hoping someone, somewhere will think it intelligent and give it the validation it is denied in its own country. Canadians are bright enough to tell it to fu ck off, so should we.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • nope

      @blessed...
      nope

      October 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Ismael

      Yes my friend, try:
      The Crusades
      Medieval Inquisition
      Episcopal Inquisition
      Papal Inquisition
      Spanish Inquisition
      Salem witch trials

      October 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Nope,

      Do you mean "nope, there is not any evidence" if so I agree.

      Do you mean you refuse to supply evidence, if so then all I can guess is you don't have any.

      As Monte Python showed, contradictions are not arguments. You have the debating skills of a 2nd grader.

      October 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @nope

      What the fvck are you talking about ? -@*Blessed are the Cheesemakers* is one of the smarter dudes posting on this blog.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Peace,

      That is very kind of you to say.

      I am convinced "nope" is the same person as "Prayer changes things",

      They like to make unsupported statements as if they are fact, it is the same mentality that drove me away from religion.

      October 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  3. Eliminate hindu Judaism, Atheism, secularism, 'SELF CENTER ISM' for peace among humanity.

    Expect nothing good from hindu, denier of truth absolute GOD, atheist or a hindu Romany of hindu Mormon ism, filthy self center ism, pig ism, both are hindu ignorant, believer of hindu hinduism, criminal denial of truth absolute GOD, practiced in hindered gutter of hinduism, illegality called india as faith, borne in hind, filthy of hinduism, racism and a hindu racist by faith, testimony to designation of hind , illegality , perfectly defined in language, word hindu driven from word of Latin, hindered, negative. Hun, great, Han, to be in greatness, hin, negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity, his words are nothing but hind, stink of his cow mama's dung. visit limitisthetruth.com to learn hinduism, criminality of hindu's criminals.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  4. logic

    Any billboard that comes with asterisks and footnotes is designed to mislead and distort.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Kenneth

      Billboards are always beacons of truth.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      apply that 'logic' to the bible. lol.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
  5. lamb of dog

    Fact: Brigham Young believed black people were descendants of Cain.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      FACT: Brigham Young was a hateful man in general.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  6. Oglethorpe

    The mormon faith was built on fear and deceit. Smith was a Huckster and Young was a cutthroat. When followers began realizing what they were in for they they tried to leave the colonies. They were intimidated in to staying when several who attempted to leave were murdered not killed murdered. It is nothing more than a cult. I do believe there are many good mormons. However the higher archy are deceitful money grubbers. The Mormon church is just a large corporation with a religious veil.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  7. Joseph Smith's Habbedasher

    Honestly, if you know the story of how Joe Smith acquired the word of his god from inside a hat and you choose to be a Mormon anyway, you have a far bigger problem than believing in god.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • MikeB

      You even got that wrong.
      Actually, you would attack any religion or group that you think are an obstacle to your own rationalizations.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  8. naturechaplain

    As a freethinker I think the rolling billboard is appropriate free speech and calls attention to serious questions about one candidates' very public faith. In my opinion, the public preaching of elected officials is the main problem and we need to protect the Jeffersonian wall of separation in this secular nation.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  9. mike

    Flat out lies on the billboard. Shame on its creators.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Explain your statement?

      October 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • kenneth

      The mormon church didn't allow black priests until 1978. How is that a lie?

      October 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  10. ogre12

    I could care less about anything atheists have to say. Atheists are fools.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
    • kenneth

      Yes, everyone should worship a bonze-age, middle-eastern, genocidal deity named Yahweh and his illiterate son, Jesus.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yeah, atheists use logic and reasoning when making decisions, and you just don't have time for that nonsense!

      October 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Actually atheist tend to have higher IQs on average. By your post I can see you are on the low side of the IQ curve.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • sam stone

      Don't you mean you couldn't care less, punk?

      Now, b1tch, get back on your knees

      October 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  11. Michael Jones

    I'm an atheist, and I really, really wish they wouldn't do this. Seriously, it doesn't help anyone.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • kenneth

      Ridiculous/idiotic beliefs should always be ridiculed.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      it helps mormons that are one the fence to take a more critical look at their religion, and hopefully 'convert' to atheism.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
  12. Bob in LA

    Why don't they go after the Catholic Church? They don't allow women into its hierarchy. And while we're at it, why doesn't the government take away the Catholic Church's tax exempt status for excluding women? The Mormon Church was going to lose its tax exempt status in 1978 if they didn't let blacks into their hierarchy. It had nothing to do with a change in the beliefs of Mormons, rather the church was being hit in its pocketbook. Same reason they gave up polygamy.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • drinker75

      All religions should lose their tax exempt status, problem solved.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • kenneth

      Both organizations are for gullible fools.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Churches need the tax exempt status. How else will they pay for the millions of dollars in av equipment. Its not a hard decision. Buy some HD video cameras and projectors or help the poor.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • The Truth

      "It had nothing to do with a change in the beliefs of Mormons, rather the church was being hit in its pocketbook."

      "the church head says he received a revelation to reverse the policy "

      "1 The Revelation to Spencer W. Kimball , which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant Spencer which said "Spencer, let Blacks become leaders in your Church or else there will be great financial trouble in the form of lost tax exempt status, so let a couple in but remember, the best heaven is reserved for those with pristine skin color...and remember, please don't let them use the exclusive temple restroom" Rev 1:1*

      October 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Bob in LA

      " Why don't they go after the Catholic Church? "

      The RCC is one of the prime targets. They are 'constantly' getting battered.

      However... as far as Presidential candidates... a "mormon" is running. So... he gets the current attack.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Repulsed Athiest

      Actually, most atheists will speak out against all religions... and justifiably so. Just because the billboard doesn't raise questions about all religions doesn't mean any atheist finds them acceptable. No religion, belief or claim should ever go unchallenged. But it's very clear, the very last thing any believer is interested is the real truth; they are completely satisfied with lies, deceit, and living in a fantasy.

      October 22, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  13. Mc MD

    This is an absolute lie told by 'American Athiests' and broadcast by CNN. Want proof? Google the name Elijah Able. Furthermore, CNN is using a surrogate to propagate hate speech. CNN can not come out and make false racist claims against Romney's religion without being outed so instead they "report" on a non-story to highlight information they would like to broadcast. Underhanded OP-ED lies packaged as news and sold to the American public is poisoning our society.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Jeffrey F

      CNN has been called out for being Pro-Obama with this story, and Pro-Romney with the Gospel according to Obama story. Remember CNN, if they hate you, you're doing obviously doing something right, keep it up.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Jeffrey F

      SOB, i screwed up that last sentence, now i look like one of those people.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • John

      It's OK Jeffrey F. Typo's happen. We know you're not a Knit-wit.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  14. mike

    The left always cries about 'fairness' but are always the first to do the unfair. thing. You have to see these people to believe what they are capable of.

    October 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • lamb of dog

      Example?

      October 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • JesusIsMyGardener

      @Mike

      So, it is your assertion that all Atheists are 'lefties'? You couldn't be more incorrect. But I could see how you might get confused. Atheists tend to lean towards Humanism, something 'righties' rarely do. They prefer to lean towards bigotry, hatred, war, and corporatism. Maybe you should ponder whether or not your god would approve of such behavior...

      October 22, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
  15. kenneth

    Check out these freaky rituals that occur in Mormon churches:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6udew9axmdM&w=640&h=390]

    October 22, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • kenneth

      PS- You are very welcome!

      October 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • niknak

      Dude, I had a mormon roomate for about 4 months back just after college.
      He was not a bad guy, but wore the creepy magic underwear and talked about some strange sheeet that went on like in that video you posted.
      I did not believe him at the time, cause I did not think any group of people could be that f*ed up.
      Appearantly I was wrong. They are in fact that f*ed up.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @kenneth

      Thanks.

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  16. lamb of dog

    We should look to the good that atheist are trying to accomplish. By calling people out on their hateful stances and forcing them to think about why they hold these beliefs about gay people.
    Thanks atheists for standing up for the gay community.

    October 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  17. Dan

    No religious beliefs allowed. – Atheists

    October 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • JesusIsMyGardener

      @Dan

      'Religion is the politics of spirituality.' – author unknown

      Faith and sprirituality are good things. They should be personal things, though. Religion distorts the beauty of faith and spiritualy, just as you have distorted the beliefs of most Atheists.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • LinCA

      @Dan

      You said, "No religious beliefs allowed. – Atheists"
      Believe whatever nonsense you want. Just keep your delusion out of my life.

      October 22, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Dan

      You Wrote: " No religious beliefs allowed. – Atheists "

      You are "allowed" to 'think' whatever you want, no matter how insane or crazy it might be.

      The problem comes when you *act* on those *beliefs* to make laws that take away the rights of others, such as a woman's right to choose, or equality under the law for gays, or when you think somehow your 'belief' that there is a creator is somehow = to *science* and should be ta-ught in schools as such, etc...

      'That's' what bothers us agnostics and atheists... not so much what you guys "think" in terms of your "religious beliefs."

      Peace...

      October 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • sam stone

      Danny Boy: Have your religious beliefs. Just don't use them to limit others' civil rights.

      October 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  18. JesusIsMyGardener

    Wow! An inaccurate political ad during a presidential campaign? I'm shocked! But, if there is going to be outrage, why not spread it around? Take any of the Carl Rove "Crossroads" ads and put it under a microscope. The only 'fact' you'll find is that it was paid for by Crossroads.

    I am an Atheist and have been since the priests refused to answer my questions and punished me for asking them. In my opinion, a true god would not have allowed that. I'd assume any god that had enough sense to give me a brain would expect me to think, to question, and to learn. The fact that he allowed his minions to punish me for seeking knowledge was all the proof I needed to decide there is no god.

    My oldest daughter, who is in her mid-20s, believed in god, but that didn't keep her from getting cancer. What kind of loving deity allows such a horror to befall a young woman who has faith? She no longer believes, and with very good reason.

    That being said, believe what you want. I choose to believe there is no god. I choose to believe that there is a scientific explanation for everything from the Big Bang forward. I may not understand the equations, but I understand cause and effect. Effect can never precede cause. The premise that some omnipotent being existed when there was nothing is a paradox which reverses the rules of cause and effect. It just doesn't hold water.

    I suppose someone will post that their god doesn't have to satisfy the laws of nature and physics. It would be better if someone posted a video of some god creating the universe. Then, I might question my beliefs. Otherwise, the case against god is pretty convincing...

    October 22, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
  19. Sean

    Fact checker: Mormons are not racist:

    Former President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints condemning racism of any sort.

    "I remind you that no man who makes disparaging remarks concerning those of another race can consider himself a true disciple of Christ. Nor can he consider himself to be in harmony with the teachings of the Church of Christ. How can any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood arrogantly assume that he is eligible for the priesthood whereas another who lives a righteous life but whose skin is of a different color is ineligible? . . . Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.
    . . . there is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in such."
    (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/background-information/president-gordon-b-hinckley-on-racial-intolerance)

    October 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • purplestikypunch

      You're such a good Mormon. Your example has led me to question my beliefs and consider that yours may be correct. Here we have a Mormon defending blacks, that must make your religion true and you righteous. How can anyone hold a Melchizedek priesthood (women are exempt) yet know nothing about the life and teachings of Machiventa Melchizedek? If you're a Mormon, at least research your own religion. Oh wait, don' do that, you may find truths that drive you away from your fact denying, record refuting, science rejecting cult!

      October 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
  20. Poncho's raincoat

    Down with religion, down with hate and bigotry!

    October 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • MikeB

      Then you agree that atheism is a hate organization.

      October 22, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
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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.