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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. davedave2

    Seeking out ways to avoid service in Vietnam was a bipartisan activity

    October 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Lindy 500

      Where was Obama in the Gulf War?

      October 22, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Lionel

      Ha Ha Ha. Nice spin. As a veteran, we are not buying this RED BULL. The Romney men does not service in the army.

      President Obama great up with his grandfather who served in WWII and was in Patton's army. Biden's son served in Iraq.

      How any veteran can vote for Robme is beyond me.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  2. jms4177

    RELIGION WILL BE THE DOWNFALL OF THIS COUNTRY.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Lionel

      Amen. Most conflicts in the world are due to relious fanatics like the Republicans.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Mandor

      There's "good religion" and "bad religion". I'm an atheist but I have no problem with the Salvation Army or the Amish or the occasional UU pastors I'll hear on a sunday morning radio show when I'm scanning stations.

      I still think they're WRONG...every last one of them.... but they're far better than the fire-breathing "Do what we say or rot in HELLLL" types.

      Religon is not a specific bane to this country. It's an understandable human invention to a truth that many people do not want to face. When you die, that's it. When your parents die, that's it. When your kids die, that's it. All that they were, and all that they had been, and all that they might have been, just ENDS. There's no longer even an awareness left to realize that it has ENDED. This concept is completely terrifying to most people, and I'm honest enough to admit I don't like it either. But I don't see any reason to believe otherwise, even if I might want to.

      That problem far preceedes the birth of the US, and it will probably be with us for at *least* another 5 centuries, until enough people turn away from the comfort of fairy tales and face the real deal.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  3. monarch811@gmail.com

    I think this sign is about right. I dont want them either

    October 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Lionel

      Racist. Bigot. Don't want you either.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  4. gdouglaso

    Seriously atheists...why do you have so much hate? It kind of seems like your religion, and do call it what it is, a religion, is the least tolerant of all.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • parvo00

      Dumbest argument ever.

      That's like saying Churchill was "full of hate" for opposing Hitler.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Huebert

      re·li·gion /riˈlijən/ Noun: 1.The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

      Please tell me how atheism fits that definition.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Andy

      That's silly on every point. It's not being hateful – it's just being honest.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      Atheism is not a religion, it is the rejection of god claims that have not met burden of proof.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. Mike

    @davedave2: You may need to meet more (and less vocal) athiest than I.
    @Hypocrites: I am not asking you to believe, only that you don't make laws and vote in canidates based on your beliefs. You want to say something is true, then please bring an informed decision, not an unjustified beleif. You will never hear an athiest say "just becuase". They attempt to justify their decisions, sometimes they are right, sometimes, wrong...but it is always arguable. Belief is not arguable except to say that it is so.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • davedave2

      ok so prove their is no God

      October 22, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Lionel

      @davedave 2. Most cult members are polite. Look at the Hare Krishnas. You have been brainwashed.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Mike D

      Dave, what are you, six years old? Proving a negative is a logical impossibility. However, our inability to disprove god doesn't mean there is one. And if there is one, which one? Every religion claims their god is the only one. The odds that one religion is right while all the others are wrong are far, far smaller than the odds that every last one of you is wrong.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • davedave2

      Mike D thanks for your response proving that vocal atheists are usually obnoxious

      October 22, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • scatheist

      davedave2 that's a 1st grader falacy. – prove the negative that anything exists. The onus is on the believer.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mike D

      You can't actually argue with me, can you, Dave? Back to preschool, kiddo.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:23 am |
  6. CQ

    Funnt how Republicans made a bill deal over Rev. Wright a few years back but they never bring this up

    October 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  7. Mandor

    This is why I do not, and will never, belong to any "organized" atheist group. I am an atheist. And I hope one day mankind does outgrow the need for such mythologies. And where I can find ways to help mankind along to that end, I will do so. But not beforetime. I would not kick crutches away from someone who's sprained ankle has not finished healing and tell them to hobble along on their own two feet. I do not begrudge a child the use of training wheels on a bicycle when they still need them.

    This group has no idea how many mormons may NEED their faith still. So just as they would want to be left alone by the Mormons they should leave them alone too. And even if you WERE going to go on a diatribe against a religion which you felt to be particularly destructive, following a campaign around means their goal has NOTHING to do with helping mankind outgrow religion, and EVERYTHING to do with a partisan screed.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  8. David

    If Mormonism is wrong for being intolerant against blacks and gays, then how about Atheists being intolerant against Judaism, Christianity, Mormonism, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhist.... etc.?

    October 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Mike D

      You people love to play the reverse discrimination card...even though you can't prove it. Go ahead, let's hear some examples of atheists discriminating against religious people. Here's a hint: Telling you the truth (i.e. you're all deluded sheep) doesn't count.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      @ David

      While I cannot speak to any personal experiences you may have had antheis demonstrating intolerance, I can speak to this point: atheism is not inherently intolerant. While religion dictates social policy, such as Christianity condeming gays and providing instructions on how to keep slaves, atheism is the disagreement with, the rejection of god claims that have not met burden of proof leaving the believe free to continue to believe whatever silly nonsense he or she would like.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  9. Tim

    Ahhh...no religious allowed? Hmmm....

    October 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • davedave2

      That violates the 1st Amendment - eveyone has the right to the free exercise of their religion

      October 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Lionel

      Most conflicts in the world are due to religious fanatics. Romney is from a cult.

      Bishop Romney have not been discussed about in the media.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  10. Ismael

    @davedave2
    Of course the are polite. They are out recruiting new member for their organization (cult). You wouldn't buy something from a grouchy salesperson, would you?
    Remember that people don't join a cult, people get RECRUIT.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • davedave2

      I still prefer them to obnoxious jerks like you

      October 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Ismael

      @davedave2
      And yet you are using Ad hominem, you are attacking me instead of my arguments. Are you a Mormon (cult member) in disguise using "theocratic warfare" to defend the faith?

      October 22, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • davedave2

      No, I am not using an ad hominem attack. I am not arguing with you. I simply do not like yu because you are obnoxious.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Ismael

      Thanks for clarify your point of view and for make my case. It's seems that you are indeed a cult member. I identify cult member for their behavior not their believes. You were indoctrinated (programmed) to behave this way if anybody dares to attack your cult. Cult member can't use critical thinking skills. Take care

      October 22, 2012 at 9:40 am |
  11. Seriously

    F your fairy tales.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • davedave2

      Mr. mature strikes again. We need more atheist politicians like Stalin and Mao

      October 22, 2012 at 9:10 am |
  12. Techie

    @Doc: Atheists killed millions of Ukranians. Dress it up any way you like, your faith killed millions

    October 22, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      the fact that you try to use "faith" to talk about atheism sort of disqualifies your opinion from the start.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • sadf

      They didn't kill them because of their faith or to spread atheism. That's like saying that mustaches commit genocide because Stalin had one.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • davedave2

      mustaches kill

      October 22, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • snowboarder

      tech – the ukrainian holocaust was perpetrated by the germans, who were not atheists. you should do a little honest research.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      My cousin was attacked by a mustache one time – those things are vicious.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Techie
      I like how you moved your reply away from the page that has my argument.
      That way nobody can see the other side, right?
      But anyways.
      The prefix A = Lack of
      Theism = belief in gods.
      A+Theism=Lack of belief in gods.
      Atheism is a negative statement that does not imply any behaviours, morals or characteristics whatsoever.
      And once again – leaders like Stalin do not unite their people under The Banner of Atheism.
      Dictators like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao put themselves into the Godhead position to be worshipped by the people.
      That technically makes them autotheists, not atheists.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  13. Brian

    Funny how the spokesman didn't mention how blacks were turned away from the temple and that if anyone who is gay isn't 100% celibate then they cannot go into the temple, they cannot receive certain blessings, and gays are certainly "welcomed" in the church, but when I've had my bishop tell me many times that I'm not a good Mormon because I support gay rights I don't appreciate being spponfed this bullcrap by my church leaders!

    October 22, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • davedave2

      Brian, most of the US Supreme Court belongs to a church that believes the same thing about gay people

      October 22, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  14. Amniculi

    As an atheist, I wish these guys would go away. They're making us all look bad.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • davedave2

      As far as I can tell, atheists do a god job of making them selves look bad.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • davedave3

      Just as all Christians are right-wing, uneducated nut-jobs right?

      October 22, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  15. Ken

    Notice how this group has chosen to tail Romney and pick on Romney. But they are not tailing Obama who has stated he believes in God and has a strong faith, and is still friends with the Rev. Wright (despite all the things Wright was caught saying on tape of a very questionable nature). Also note that they have never as a group done this before. So suddenly out of the blue just as Obama looks weak in the polls and maybe his chance to win again is in trouble, this group comes out to attack Romney and leaves Obama alone. Very Very strange......

    October 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Soooo, is it not okay for them to support Obama and criticize Romney? I don't understand.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Brian

      I know...to think that a group would act on it's own accord is insane dude...it MUST be the Obama campaign!!!!!

      October 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • davedave2

      Republican thinking at its best ------Obama is linked to a Christian minister -- so he must be a Muslim

      October 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • bannister

      Ken I agree, this group seems to be very selective in their targeting.

      Why not make an anti- Obama sign that says "Shame Christianity" ??? After all, Obama opposed gay marriage too (until 2012 as the sign says) AND he's a hypocritical warmonger who murders men, women and children with drone strikes in the name of protecting Israel- a theocratic state!

      October 22, 2012 at 9:15 am |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      @ Ken

      I have to correct you on something here. Atheists, just earlier this year released ad, billboards I believe, attacking both Romeny and Obama on their faiths, so it is not one side as you may think. No, these atheists are not attacking Obama, at this time. The right is doing a good enough job calling Obama unamerican, a Kenyan, demanding to see his birth certificate, etc. So please don't even for a suggest that this isn't fair for Romney.

      October 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  16. Hypocrites

    For atheists to talk about “intolerance” and “bigotry” they need to look in the mirror! They are the epitome of “intolerance” and “bigotry”.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • freetime1

      If it is the truth it is not “intolerance” and “bigotry”, it is just the truth. What they have put on the billboard is the truth. Some wish to hide from the truth and that is just sad. Now what the bible has to say about none believers is not the truth. Facts are facts.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:18 am |
  17. Ana

    JUST ONE MORE REASON TO HATE ATHEISTS. THEY SPREAD THE HATE TO EVERYONE ELSE SO MIGHT AS WELL SPREAD THE HATE THEIR WAY. AFTER ALL, THAT IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ATHEIST, RIGHT? HATE EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING

    October 22, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Seems like you are the one doing the hating – says so right there in your first sentence.

      BTW, I think your caps lock is stuck...

      October 22, 2012 at 9:11 am |
    • davedave2

      Rufus, I thought you were Jewish. You are killing your mother.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      And another one to add to the list of things with which religionists conflate atheism.
      Atheism = communism, anarchism, 'darwinism', nihilism, terrorism, and now misanthropy too!

      October 22, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  18. sadf

    How has nobody asked Romney why he was an adult member of an outwardly, avowed racist organization back in 1978?

    October 22, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • davedave2

      The Mormons changed in 1978 - did you want them to stay the same. Lets talk about the two most famous athetists - Mao and Stalin

      October 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  19. Techie

    @Andy in Minneapolis: Look at that; an atheist faithful turning to name-calling when his faith is attacked. Those Soviet Union atheist were right weren't they Andy....you can't trust anybody who isn't of your faith.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      @ Techie

      Please understand there is a different between name calling, such as "you are an idiot", and asking a question, such as "are you an idiot?" Yes, obviously I was implying it, but still, I did not call you any names. None the less I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings. Also, atheism is not a faith, there is no dogma, no book or pracitices of worship, it is simply the rejection of god claims that fail to meet the burden of proof. Please educate yourself.

      October 22, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  20. Mike

    Athiest do not thrust their belief (or lack of it) upon others. They ask that yours is not thrust upon them. They attack when attacked. You think bettering Romney's beliefs is not fair? Well I think Romney making laws based upon his beleifs is not fair. If he (and Ryan) would justify their thinkins using ANY OTHER WORDS but faith and beliefe, there would be no issue with Athiests. Biden said his faith guides his personal life BUT he said he would not force those beliefs on others, thus you do not see Athiests battering him.

    October 22, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • davedave2

      I thought every Mormon was required to do mission work? I must say that every Mormom missionary I ever met was very polite.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • davedave2

      At the risk of stereotyping, every vocal atheist seems to be obnoxious. You do not he many people saying, I am atheist, can I help you? It is usually I am atheist so I am smart and you are dumb.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • Lionel

      Agree, Romney's faith have been largely ignored by the media.

      Mormonism is a cult which most christians were told up until the right wing elements in the Republican party twisted the leaders arms to change their stance on being a cult.

      Just look at Romney's behaviour during the debate and his attacks on women "binders full of women".

      He will take us back to teh 1950's and stack the supreme court to carry out this.

      Obama / Biden 2012

      October 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Hypocrites

      Atheists DO THRUST their lack of beliefs on others. They are the loudest of all on these boards. Look at all these comments on these boards, it's 90% atheists spewing hate. Take your biased blinders off and look at these comments.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Lionel

      @davedave 2. Most cult members are polite. Have you met an angry hare krisna.

      Look, Romney was a Mormon bishop. He avoided service in Vietnam but going on missionary work in France.

      He does not represent ALL Americans.

      October 22, 2012 at 9:08 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.