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. Turnipghost

    Extremism and evangelicalism is really hurting our once great country.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • wf

      It's a shame that you don't even know the story of your own country. The reasons why this country is so great is because the principles upon which it founded – Christian principles. if you let go of Christian values, you can also say goodbye to freem as well. There is no America without the Christian values.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  2. JoeP

    Exodus 11:4–6 – This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.

    To those of you who argue that all morality comes from God and that His morality is absolute: Is it morally right to kill innocent children?? An omnipotent God could have easily released his people from slavery without resorting to this. Please explain this to me.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:49 am |
    • wf

      You completely missed the points and you appear to pass yourself as more righteous than God. Did you read the story to see what it was all about? I suggest that you enroll in a reading class to help your reading skills. The people had been in slavery for over 400 years and instead of obeying God's orders, he challanged. God did not bring this on the Egyptians; Pharaoh did by not obeying God commands.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • Eva

      JoeP, your right God could have spoken a word and caused the isrealites to be freed from slavery but he is God not you and he chose to give us free will. Before every first born of the eygptians was killed, God warned them that this would happen if he did not let his people go. Just as he does today he send others to deliver his message through his spirit. What you choose to do with that is your choice but there are always consequences to the choices we make, good or bad; Pharoah made his choice. If we did not have free will then we would be more like robots, unable to make choices for ourselves, unable to love, show emotion,learn ect. But we were created to fellowship with God to have a relationship with our creator. However, our sin keeps us from the very reason we were created. Because we choose to live for ourselves and believe our own ideas and reasonings for things. Why dont you continue to read the bible and ask God to reveal himself to you. You need to know for yourself and this only happens when the truth of his word starts to penetrate deep within your soul. Seek and you will find, knock and he will answer.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • wf

      You also will pay for ignorance at the judment day. What will you do? Who will defend you before Him? I suggest that you embrace Jesus now before it's too late. Peace!

      June 24, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Eric G.

      Egyptian and Israeli archaeologists have a theory that the jews were never slaves in Egypt. The Israeli archaeologists would love to prove that they were but their statement was that the evidence just does not support the claim. What evidence is there (besides the bible) that the Jews were egyptian slaves? Can you provide a reference for me? I would really like to read up on it.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  3. Christian

    to topprosecutor you seem to have some anger issues??

    June 24, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Vivian

      @ Christian
      It does sound like a angry post. I haven't read any threats on this blog regarding killing or I'd have reported it as abuse. No threats can be made to someone for simply voicing an opinion.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
  4. Christian

    Perhaps you should file this under DON'T ASK DON'T TELL!! That way no one will debate you and only you and GOD will know!

    June 24, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  5. JoeP

    AW – "Is that why the Ten Commandments were taken off that justice courthouse."

    Umm...how many of the Ten Commandments are actually law?? Two?? Maybe three?? Seriously, why does it belong there??

    June 24, 2010 at 10:36 am |
  6. Joesph

    Luke I am open mined enought to leave the possibalty that God dosent exist, but you seem to be be closed mined to the point to not even entertain the possibalty of His existantance,
    "Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas . . . for it is the assertion of a universal negative."
    GK Chesterton.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Luke

      Again, incorrect. My thought, and many like me agree, that the possibility remains. We have just rejected the idea and claims made by your god, Yahwah, in the same way we have rejected other gods such as Thor, Posideon, Zeus and Apollo. I just take it one god further based on claims bade by the bible that have long since been proven innaccurate and false.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  7. topprosecutor

    For all you nut job christians out there threatening to kill nonbelievers, I will send you and all your coconspirators to the gallows if you commit one fatal act of hate. If you even harm a hair on a nonbeliever, I will send you away for a hate crime. Got that? This is America, not the dark ages you manic sociopathic morons. Get a grip! You have seen the enemy, and it is YOU!

    June 24, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  8. Michael

    Some of the people on here just disgust me and make me wish I could rip out my heart. I just feel so depressed and absolutely dumbfounded to the point that some days it literally destroys me that people are so blind and can't live for themselves, but only for an icon they themselves created. People who can only be strong-willed and a truly good humane person through fear are hypocrites and the truly evil people.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  9. Joesph

    100 years ago a guy said this.
    "It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian."
    GK Chesterton.
    More true today.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • AW

      Here! Here!
      True, true.
      yes, some people don't believe in God, but I think the USA started with Godly principles. Seems like that to me. But now the USA laws as a whole seem to be turning against Christianity. So take God out of the saying then–do it. What do you have now: One Nation Divisible. And more so everyday, it seems to be. Democrats not agreeing with Republicans. Washington gridlock. One race against another. Marriages fallin apart. Is America really so cohesive now? I don't think so. When atheists poo-poo and whinny that they are being discriminated against, I always say to myself, 'really'. We talking 'bout the same America. Whatchew talkin' 'bout Willis, I say. HAHAHAHAHA

      June 24, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • AW

      Here! Here!
      True, true.
      yes, some people don't believe in God, but I think the USA started with Godly principles. Seems like that to me. But now the USA laws as a whole seem to be turning against Christianity. So take God out of the saying then–do it. What do you have now: One Nation Divisible. And more so everyday, it seems to be. Democrats not agreeing with Republicans. Washington gridlock. One race against another. Marriages fallin apart. Is America really so cohesive now?

      June 24, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  10. AW

    The atheists always say that they are being discriminated against. Is that why prayer was taking out of the schools. Is that why you can't intelligent design in school or at least discuss the problems of evolution. Is that why the Ten Commandments were taken off that justice courthouse. Better not even mention Christ–you're a laughing stock. You can be mocked now. I thought Christians were the ones being discriminated against. Don't say anything again Islam, but hey, Christians–they're a good open target. Right South Park. Right The Simpsons. Yeah, right. Silly me.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • bostonjim

      Respectfully, AW, I think you're overreacting a bit here. Only in the last few years have those who wish to see a more full separation of church and state even been given any real voice in this country. Yes, in some cases the courts are actually agreeing with us. There are even some atheist scholars being given notice. Still, it is now, and likely will be for some time, far more accepted to at least claim some sort of faith in this country, even if you're just paying lip service to it. We recently elected a black president. We came fairly close to having a woman president. Most people polled stated they would be fine with a Jewish president. Heck, I even saw a poll that seemed to indicate we might elect a gay president. Know who's not getting elected for a long time to come? An atheist president. We will continue to demand for some time that our public figures play the game and get their picture taken going in and out of church etc. By the way, I don't think I've gone a day without hearing someone make a negative comment about Islam. South Park is an equal opportunity offender- you can't blame them for CC's decision to pull the Muhammed bit, and the Simpsons has repeatedly been lauded for it's positive portrayal of Christians. I'm just saying, you can't really have a persecution complex when you still pretty much control everything. It just doesn't work.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Rinoa

      So, rather than be a republic you want this country to be a xitan theocracy? Just like England when our ancestors left.

      June 25, 2010 at 4:14 am |
  11. scoogy

    "I pledge allegiance..." Those are very powerful words. When you're saying the Pledge of Allegiance, you aren't just mouthing some old words, you are taking an OATH. Unless you believe in the words of that oath unconditionally, you are swearing a FALSE oath. I don't believe in pledging my allegiance to any piece of cloth, no matter how pretty it may be. I can't pledge allegiance to any country UNDER GOD, for I believe there isn't any god. And I'm certainly not going to pledge my allegiance to any country UNCONDITIONALLY. I had no allegiance to the United States when Bush II was President, for we were a criminal nation.
    Beware, there are those who would like to REQUIRE that we take this oath. In such a scenario, you could be jailed for not taking it.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  12. ttwp

    For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  13. SherBear

    I totally agree with Joel3

    June 24, 2010 at 9:55 am |
  14. Andy Atheist

    When it all comes down to it, a religious belief is… just a BELIEF. Everyone can think they’re right, but in the end it's really nobody else’s business. I suppose I can understand the “moral dilema” some seculars/atheists/whatever you want to call us may have with being forced (by whom, i'm still not entirely sure) to utter a phrase like “under god”. Oh, the horror, let me tell you. But personally, in the end my beliefs don’t change. I’m not scarred or beaten or bruised by having to say it. (Hell, when I’m at a friend’s house for dinner, or at a wedding or something and everyone bows their heads to prey, I bow my head too. Because I’m not an a**hole.) But I don’t think it forces religion down anyone’s throat. Otherwise, us athiests wouldn’t be around to spout off our comments and post billboards in the first place. The beauty of this country is the ability to think and feel and express as we wish. I don’t condemn the billboard campaign itself, but I do wholeheartedly disagree with the fervor some people employ to get their message across. When you comment on an article and call christians “idiots” for expressing their personal beliefs, it makes you no better than those who wish to corral you into church and throw bibles and holy water at you. Take “under god” out of the pledge or keep it in, makes no difference to me. I established my belief with my own education and my own personal experiences, and I have no doubt my kids and grandkids will do the same.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:49 am |
    • Ponter B


      June 24, 2010 at 10:31 am |
  15. Ponter B

    Ponter B

    We call people who would harm and kill people on a massive scales psychopaths and genocidal. According to the Christians, god wiped out most of mankind with a flood. He's also going to condem most of us to an eternity of fire and pain, because we refuse to bow down and worship him or follow his rules. I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't killed or caused anyone serious pain. My only crime is that I refuse to believe and follow the BS in book written two thousand years ago. Sounds like a sociopath to me.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:38 am |
    • ttwp

      Would you condemn God, to justify yourself?

      June 24, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • Reality

      Most Christian and Jewish contemporary scholars have put the Noah and his ark story on the myth pile.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • Luke

      Reality – The fact that you can only say most people believe the story of Noah to be myth and that 40% of Americans do not believe in the theory of evolution scares the crap out of people like us.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:10 am |
    • Ponter B

      ttwp – God better justify his actions and himself to me, if he's going to throw me into hell for eternity simply because I won't follow the bible and believe that all people should be allowed to love and marry whomever they want. Oh, as for Jesus dies for our sins stuff, I think that's all a cop-out. If I've "sinned", I'm going to stand up and take responsibility for my own actions. I don't need some middle man taking the rap for me, thanks.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • ttwp

      Ponter B: You're right. You will stand up for your actions especially since you rejected the living God.

      A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2).

      A fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). Seek Him out humbly and he will open your eyes the darkness you now live in. God Bless.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:49 am |
    • Ponter B

      ttwp – Your living god doesn't sound any better then the mess we see on the nightly news. I can only hope he throws me to hell, so I don't need to spend the rest of eternity ass kissing his psychotic behavior.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
  16. The Anonymous Bystander

    Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  17. Joesph

    Ah Luke
    you missed the point and you seem to not to be able to think beyound a high school physics text book.
    "I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification." G K Chesterton

    June 24, 2010 at 9:35 am |
    • Luke

      That is about the most disingenuous thing I have read on this tread so far. I am more than capable of thinking beyond the physical world, finding myself enthralled by fictional novels, science fiction movies, myths and legends and the world of faith. What a twisted thought process that must run through your head to believe that those that study physics (much higher than high school, mind you) are not capable of understanding anything else. Nevertheless, the study of which is not proven or has evidence that supports it does not undermine the natural order of things, laws of physics and concrete and proven theory.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  18. eric

    i have never, ever heard of an athiest losing their job or friends based solely on the fact that they were an athiest. atheism is acceptable in our country today...

    on the other hand, try being a muslim in america today...

    June 24, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  19. david

    How ironic that these people are fulfilling the same prophetic words of the God they dont believe in, hey somebody has to fulfill prophecy.
    But these like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed speak evil of the things they do not understand and will utterly perish in their own corruption. 2 Peter 2:12

    June 24, 2010 at 9:29 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      Oh and it is the prophetic words of a man saying that these are the words of his god. What an effective way to control the populace – through fear of the unknown (death). Just one of many examples that the people who wrote the bible used to control the masses and "explain" what was then unexplainable.
      And if I wrote a "bible" and wanted you to believe in my god and only my god wouldn't it make sense for me to add some wording to it saying that those who don't believe are ignorant animals who will die because of their non-belief. Kool-Aid has been around for a long time.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:41 am |
  20. Ponter B

    Maybe we should just get rid of the Pledge all together? I mean serious, why do we pledge our alliegence to any country, especially one which allows corporations to spill massive amounts of oil in the ocean, who goes to war out of revenge and resource hoarding in the name of security and to further our national interests and culture, etc. etc.

    If we need to pledge alligence to anything, who not to the Earth as a whole and to all the people and creatures on it.

    Pledge Alligence, it's almost as laughable as the monetary system.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:25 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.