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June 23rd, 2010
10:49 AM ET

Billboard campaign rebuts 'one nation under God'

Religious billboards adorn the highways across the South. But a new billboard campaign in North Carolina deliberately snubs the Almighty.

A coalition of atheists and secular humanists has placed a billboard on Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte that displays an American flag with a few key words from the Pledge of Allegiance: “One Nation Indivisible.”

Notice anything missing? The phrase “under God,” which appears between "One nation" and "indivisible" in the Pledge, is absent on the billboard.

William Warren, a member of the North Carolina Secular Association, says his group put the ads up on billboards across the state to let people know that patriotism and belief in God are not always synonymous.

The billboards are appearing in a half-dozen locations across the state, including Asheville, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, in addition to Charlotte.

Warren, an atheist, says people who share his beliefs often fear losing their job or their friendships. The billboard is designed to encourage them to be more open.

“We’re here. We’re your neighbors, your co-workers,” he says. “We’re not happy that we have to hide who we are everyday.”

Read more on this story from CNN Charlotte affiliate WBTV.

A statement on his group's website says the campaign "is intended as a consciousness-raising effort to point out how every U.S. citizen who doesn’t believe in a monotheistic god is being 'officially' marginalized, disrespected, and discriminated against by the insertion of 'under God' in the Pledge..."

The North Carolina Secular Association's statement also alleges that North Carolina's constitution "restricts anyone that doesn't believe in a monotheistic god from holding public office."

Warren says two billboard companies refused to raise the billboards. One said the Pledge ad was too controversial. Another didn’t call back when it heard about the planned message.

“It’s a pretty innocuous message,” says Warren. “If someone sees controversy in the message, they’re looking for controversy.”

Some may consider the location of the Charlotte billboard controversial: along a parkway named for the Rev. Billy Graham, the venerated evangelical minister.

But Warren says the location was chosen because the price was right. The Charlotte billboard costs $3,300 to rent for a month.

The entire billboard campaign costs $15,000, with money coming from donations from various secular groups and from a national marketing organization called FreeThoughtAction.

The North Carolina Secular Association's website explains that it chose the Pledge for its campaign because the phrase “one nation under God” was inserted into it in 1954, provoked by the Cold War. The intention then was proclaiming a Judeo-Christian American heritage in the face of godless  communism.

That change, though, stigmatized atheists and religious skeptics, Warren says.

“Instead of uniting the nation, it divided the nation,” Warren says. “You were either religious or with the godless communists.”

The Pledge was originally written in 1892 by a former Baptist minister who made no reference to religion in his version.

In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected efforts by a California atheist to revisit the issue of banning the Pledge’s recital in public schools because of its use of the words, “under God.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Culture wars • Politics

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soundoff (797 Responses)
  1. hhm

    The day is quickly approaching that you will not be able to hide or excuse your behavior behind your ignorance. Enjoy your time while you have it. Eternity is an incredibly long time.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:41 am |
    • Kieran

      What about the people in the age range from say 0 to 3 years old at this time that's coming really soon now? The ones who are too young to even understand the most basic religious concepts? Do they suffer for eternity? Or do they get a free pass? Or do they get some extra time to make up their minds, which still seems a little unfair on the rest of us since they'll have complete evidence right in front of them.

      October 6, 2010 at 12:08 am |
  2. bobby

    Read the book of Revelations and then read the news of today. One will see that there are things in the Bible that were wrote over 2,000 years ago that are coming to pass. People that persecute the church is also mentioned and the church is being persecuted more and more every day. May God forgive you for your persecution of all the Christians in the world. Hopefully lightning will strike that sign

    June 24, 2010 at 6:34 am |
    • Stephanie

      Bobby, the book of revelations was written by a lunatic. You are doing what every generation has done since its conception: taking it out of the context from which it was written and applying it to modern day. It has been compared to every generation's tragic events, natural disasters, and political uprisings since it's conception and YET the Earth and its inhabitants is still around. 200 years from now, they will be saying exactly what you are saying.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:59 am |
    • freetime1

      "Hopefully lightning will strike that sign"
      If it does there will be lots of people going on how it was god's will, but these same people just said it was only a storm when it hit the big Jesus last week. What a joke and that these people can't see how dumb they look to any one who has not been brain washed the same way they have been.

      June 24, 2010 at 7:03 am |
    • EJK

      Perhaps you could read it yourself and see that it is "Revelation," not "Revelations."

      That's the problem with so many smug Christians. They don't even know much about the things they so ardently profess to believe.

      June 24, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  3. freetime1

    Last time I saw the numbers at least 15% of the people in the USA do not believe in god. That means we are not one nation under god. It also mean that "In God We Trust" is a lie! We do not. Some might, but we do not. There is no god, but people have a right to belive in what ever they wish to, just as a nation we have to respect the rights and understand that freedom from is as important as freedom too. The 15% number is growing fast also. Time to put one of the on the high court.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:20 am |
  4. Dave

    Who believes "god" saves?

    Simple logic ignored by believers: "god" is in control...

    Little Johnny falls off a cliff and, by the grace of "god," is unharmed and saved.

    If that's true – "god" saved little Johnny – I'd like to ask why the hell did your "god" push him off in the first place?

    Your belief in "god" doesn't even make sense to you. Admit it. Get over it.

    You can be a good person without being a hypocritical follower of a cult clique – Ok, well, I can anyway...

    *clique is appropriate here because of the ever increasing desire to be separate and somehow better than the rest ("god" knows marketing...) i.e: "First Church of The Southern End of The Northbound Rhinocerous – Reformed"

    June 24, 2010 at 6:09 am |
  5. Godhavemercy

    Non believers may God have mercy on your souls. I pray that one day you'll open your heart and mind to believe that GOD DOES exist. Lord please forgive us, specially the people who chose not to believe in YOU!!!

    June 24, 2010 at 5:57 am |
  6. Vivian

    The billboards...that's the one thing good about America. People can make their money and spend it anyway they want to. This particular billboard is not offensive to me. Also, this has been the first blog I've participated in and as a newbie I must say it has been quite an experience. Some of the posts had me laughing almost to the point of tears. Perhaps that was the purpose of the posts, I don't know. I think sometimes when we find ourselves taking life too seriously that no one is getting out of it alive, that's for sure and we just need to (with me being female) put on the big-girl panties and deal with it and get over our sweet self. Enjoyed reading everyone's opinion...trust me, I read them all. Oh, what a job that was! 😀

    June 24, 2010 at 4:39 am |
  7. Tony

    It is suprising that the atheists are the ones preaching about tolerance, and yet they are the most offensive on the posts. Nicole , whether you think so or not you are putting people down. You sound like you are the one without culture. If you don't like religon pushed on you, how do you think it feels for someone religous to read a post like yours. If your going to be rude don't try to cover yourself first. You can't have it both ways.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:18 am |
    • Vivian

      @Tony>It is suprising that the atheists are the ones preaching about tolerance, and yet they are the most offensive on the posts.
      I read through every post and noticed the same thing. Seemed to be a lot of hate spewing forth from such tolerant people.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:26 am |
    • Rinoa

      There are bad apples of every bunch, however it is illogical to unfairly lump them all together based on the rotten minority. As a whole, comment for comment posted here, the atheists leave logical, informative, and historically accurate comments. Please do not be unnecessarily derogatory to all atheists, it is just rude and disrespectful.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:06 am |
    • Vivian

      @Rinoa
      I apologize. Guess that did sound like I was lumping everyone together as a whole and saying alkl were hateful; just the majority. I'll be more careful separating the apples next time. 🙂 As a newbie, I'm old and learning...got to crawl before walking, and that includes getting bruised along the journey sometimes 🙁 thx for ya'lls patience.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:55 am |
    • jk8369

      As an agnostic, I see the hatred on both sides – just like the far right and far left political idiots. But at least I've gotten several good laughs from reading here!

      June 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  8. Vivian

    @Yoda 😀 Sometimes God has to SHOUT in order to be heard b/c people like to hear themselves talk so much they won't shut up long enough to hear His still, small voice.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:14 am |
  9. Asher

    Most of the Founding Fathers were all Deists. Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine were too prominent deists, and the SECULAR, non-Christian (mostly Deist) presidents we've had are even more interesting: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q.Adams, Jackson, and Lincoln.

    Washington famously attended church once in NYC, after he became president, and at the communion part, he walked out. The priest told him later to set a good example, and Washington replied that he would not bother his church anymore. Although Washington was a very quiet man who kept his beliefs mostly to himself, the historical record, including letters by various inquiring religious officials, confirm that he was a Deist.

    Others such as T.Paine, J.Adams, and T.Jefferson, were adamant in their disdain for organized religion, evidenced clearly from their writings. Jefferson could not stand the word "God" in the Declaration, so he used the word "Creator" instead.

    As a little first-hand historical evidence, here is the Treaty of Tripoli which President George Washington negotiated and President John Adams signed:
    Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    If only George Walker Bush knew something about history!

    The Founding Fathers understood that the SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE was necessary to keep politics civil and religion free. The moment religion steps into politics, unnecessary strife ensues. The moment politics steps into religion, unnecessary strife ensues. The church has no more business in the state house than the state house has any business in the church! People should be able to exercise their religion freely, but should make NO ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION in their government.

    June 24, 2010 at 3:32 am |
  10. Don

    Your goal in life should be to outgrow the insecurities of your parents, not to embrace them. Leave your parents bedtime tales behind and do your children a favor by not teaching them to presume in life.

    June 24, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  11. Luke Myintthu

    As long as it does not claim like "Titanic:" God can not make Titanic sink. But, it just sank by an ice berg.

    Whenever I read this, I will fill in two words: "One Nation Indivisible by humans," surrendering to majesty of God to unite the USA out of social problems, monetary deficits, and war on terror.

    One Nation under God
    Indivisible by humans

    June 24, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  12. Yoda

    "My Christianity allows me to profess a great love for humanity... Yet delight in its inevitable destruction!"

    June 24, 2010 at 1:14 am |
  13. Rich M

    The three religions that “descended from Abraham”, are the sources of the most dangerous religious fundamentalism and the causes of the most heinous acts of war and other forms of violence history has ever known. These are the reasons our founding fathers felt it necessary to write the first amendment to the Constitution. I personally believe in one God that is the force of existence of everything and everyone. However, it is not concerned one way or the other about being named in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  14. Greg

    Joe McCarthy would be proud of you.
    Hitler, too!

    June 24, 2010 at 12:26 am |
  15. EISH5

    Thousands of years ago the desert spawned 3 religions. Each loathes the other 2 and each comes complete with scripture. From the moment anyone is born he is immediately hated by millions of others for what he believes or even if he doesn't believe. If there were a Satan, he couldn't have done a better job of ensuring that man would be forever schackled to hatred and violence than through religion and scripture.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:12 am |
  16. EISH5

    It should read, "one nation, under educated".

    June 24, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Greg

      Yes it should, BECAUSE it's been "under God"!! LOL

      June 24, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  17. Rich

    The three religions that “descended from Abraham”, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the sources of the most dangerous religious fundamentalism and the causes of the most heinous acts of war and other forms of violence history has ever known. These are the reasons our founding fathers felt it necessary to write the first amendment to the Constitution. I personally believe in one God that is the force of existence of everything and everyone. However, it is not concerned one way or the other about being named in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    June 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  18. Fred Evil

    Works for me, please, revert the pledge to its original form, and repeal the assault upon the division of church and state enacted by the holy righteous of the mid-20th century.

    June 23, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  19. david

    Look at all the hatred aimed at Chistianity on this comment section. For so many years we as a nation have been blessed by God Almighty, I sometimes wonder why God loves us as often as we as people sin and sin and sin everyday. All of society seems to be getting more and more evil. I long for Jesus Christ's return as He promised. He is the One who will set all things right. He is the One who will rule and reign. He is the One who died on the cross in my place and your place. The cross was meant for you and me and He freely died to save us from eternal damnation in Hell. People do not realize that this life is only a dress rehearsal for eternity. You can be saved by believing that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and that you cannot save your self, and by accepting Him into your heart as the Lord of your life. It is the most important decision that you can ever make and to not make a choice is the same as rejecting Him. You can be assured of a place in Heaven by trusting in Him today. I urge those reading this to believe on Jesus. Like the above post, If you seek Him while He may be found, He will heal you and you will discover the truth and the truth will set you free. You will not find this truth in the bottom of a bottle, or any drug, or pornography, or anything else. Only Jesus can save you. Choose Him today.

    June 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • Rock God

      Jesus was a groovy hippie. It's his followers that drive me nuts.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  20. revcor

    I love how this is news in the states. In Canada, we don't care. Believe in God, the cookie monster, the fonz, who cares, it doesn't make a difference to any of us. The chuch and the state needs to be seperated, history has taught us this. Think how advanced we be if not for a 400 year period where all scientific thought was outlawed (the dark ages).

    June 23, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
    • Bill

      Excellent!

      June 24, 2010 at 12:24 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.