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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. Big Red from Texas

    Up front, I'm a Christian. I uphold the right for the billboards to be shown. I will fight for others to be able to display their beliefs. In the same spirit, I expect people who's beliefs differ from mine to fight for my rights to display my beliefs as I wish. It must be quid pro quo or else we will all be in trouble down the line with regard to free speech and freedom of religion or non-religion. Second point, I find the comments from the poster who made derrogatory remarks concerning "mis-educated Texans" to be juvenile and wholly without merit. It has become ridiculous in this country how many people post about "tolerance" and then go on to trash a certain body of people by name calling, etc. We should all be able to discuss our divergent points of view in an adult fashion.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • ApatheticCharlotteGuy

      Thank you for being a reasonable person, seriously the crazies are out today

      June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Big Red from Texas

      You're welcome CharlotteGuy, and you're right.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  2. Rock God

    Conservative "Christians" are America's Taliban. They are anti-democratic and dangerous to our freedom.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • wf

      Did I miss something here? Are they the ones passing laws removing freedom of speech from people such as the "hate crimes bill"? I used to think that democrats stood for freedom. But now, it's clear to me what they really stand for – freedom removers.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  3. AngryCharlotteGirl

    I live in Charlotte and I'm not a Christian so my life often sucks. People there wear Christian T-shirts, Christian bookbags, have Christian bumper stickers, have other Christian billboards, Christian stores, Christian schools, huuuge flags showing you were Elevation Church is, soo many churches everywhere, Christian movies, Christian girls and boys wanting to talk about Christ and people coming up and trying to convert everyone around us (if there was one non-christian left). Christ is freaking EVERYWHERE.
    But look at this, the secularists get one billboard and the Christians are crying murder! Hypocrites! You live in the US where freedom of religion is supposed to be valued. Well, learn to take what you dish out all the time. I still have to be careful not to wear Muslim clothes or a secular t-shirt lest I be beat up in a parking lot or simply refused service everywhere I go, but you live such privileged little lives that this is what makes you stay up at night? Really? Who has ever been converted by a billboard? Relax. This is only to show fellow secularists that there are others, not to harm your stupid brainwashed offspring.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
    • ApatheticCharlotteGuy

      Yeah, I have to say I agree with you but maybe I'm not as angry. The billboard is supposed to show that secularist (or actually anyone who is not Christian) is actually an American too by referencing what the original 1950s pledge of allegiance was. Why is everyone on here fighting about who is wrong and who is right? Do you think its going to work? "OMG, you're right Christian man, I was wrong all along!" No, so cut it out, it's a silly waste of time. What we should be discussing is whether or not this nation is all inclusive or a theocracy? Like ACG said, why can't I walk around in a atheist t-shirt or have an atheist billboard in the US? Either because our nation is strictly one religion (which branch of Christianity counts?) or because the "faith" in the Christian Church in the US is really quite low, if not dying out all together.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  4. geckopelli

    Better to sleep with a drunken cannibal than a sober christian.
    - Melville

    June 24, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  5. texokie

    The atheist rages against the "brainwash" of religion. When the atheist enthrones his own mind as absolute authority, he'll be obeying a tyrant or a vagrant. One day, when he discovers that many things are NOT relative, his faith in his mind will crumble. " The mind is like the mouth: it must be opened and then closed upon something solid" – Chesterton. This is why I'm a Catholic.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Eric G.

      Thank you for proving our point. It is you that rages against us. Please provide proof and varifiable evidence of your god.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  6. Eric G.

    A religious extremist is someone who is unwilling to change his mind and unable to change the subject. Ask yourself why you don't believe in all the other gods and you will begin to understand why atheists do not believe in yours. Being an atheist does not require threats of eternal hell and suffering. When believers find out I am an atheist, they call me names, threaten me with hell, question my moral compas and treat me with hostility. Believe what you will, just leave me out of it.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Seriously?

      Extremely well said. Thank you.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
  7. L.

    I've spent about an hour reading these comments and with the exception of the angry atheists, I think the point has been made quite well. The gentleman who said, and I'm paraphrasing, "we want our place at the table" had it right. What saddens me is the christian mentality that "If you're not with us, GTF out!" As an American Atheist, I find that ideal disgusting and completely invalidates MY rights as an American.

    Just because I am an atheist, it does not mean I am any less patriotic than the christian sitting next to me! I am a PROUD American! To imply that my right of religious freedom is less valid than the majority is an insult to that patriotism. I have an equal right to be heard, to stand up and speak out, and that freedom which allows christians to proclaim their religious beliefs without fear of persecution is the same freedom I have with my own!

    June 24, 2010 at 11:54 am |
  8. Ponter B

    "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!"

    As I've said, if I need to answer for my life, I'll do it myself and not through a middle man. If God finds me evil, at least I'm going out on my two feet and with full responsibility. Not cowering behind Jesus.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • ttwp

      Ponter B: You will not be cowering behind Jesus. You will be bowing in front of Him being judged for rejecting the living God.

      "As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:11-12 quoting Isaiah 45:23) "...God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

      June 24, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • Bunnies

      ttwp – who the heck do you think you are to be telling anyone what they will and will not be doing in the afterlife (if there is one)?? is there something we're missing here? have you died and met god and jesus and actually saw people "bowing in front of him being judged"? quoting one scripture in your religious book does not the truth make. but since you're so hung up on scripture, why not trying reading the rest of them. you know – all of the parts that say only god can judge, love one another, and peace to all mankind, etc, etc. wait, let me guess, those scriptures don't fit in with your fire and brimstone rhetoric.

      "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Mat 7:1) If your bible is to be believed then it sounds like it is YOU who will have a lot of cowering and bowing to do.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • Ponter B

      @Bunnies – Nice One!

      June 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • ttwp

      Bunnie: It's sad how you twist Scripture. I am not judging anyone as I stated in my previous post. I'm merely stating the fact that Jesus will judge us all one day. And yes I have died spiritually and have a relationship with the living God. It's not my book it is the Word of God.

      And yes I will be bowing and giving praise and glory to the living God for saving my soul. Some will bow giving honor and praise, others will bow reluctantly...but they will bow nonetheless. God's Words....not mine.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • Bunnies

      I'm almost at the point of feeling sorry for you, ttwp. Not even remotely willing to open your eyes to anything else, huh?
      And you've done nothing but judge people on every reply you've posted on this site. Have some respect, your fact is not everyone else's. Just because you believe something to be true certainly does not make it true. Thousands of kids wholeheartedly believe in Santa Claus - doesn't make him real.

      Get down off of your pompous high horse – lack of oxygen seems to be affecting your brain. (oh, and btw – i didn't "twist" scripture, I quoted it. sorry if you can't handle what your own religious book is telling you)

      June 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  9. JoeP

    WF – "You completely missed the points and you appear to pass yourself as more righteous than God."

    I don't go around murdering innocent children. I'm sorry that God's moral standards appear to be much lower.

    WF – "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."

    I'm familiar with the story. My point was that God chose to kill innocent children. The children did not choose to keep God's people enslaved, Pharoah did. The children had no control over the situation and were in no way culpable. You make it sound as though God had no other choice but to kill innocents, but if God is truly omnipotent then it seems obvious to me that that would not be the case.

    But thanks for the advice, I'll look into the whole reading class thing...

    June 24, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 24, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  10. JoeP

    For those of you who say that America is a Christian nation, what are the UNIQUELY Christian principals that this country was founded on?? (ones that are not found in other religions)

    June 24, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  11. inbetween

    I have a question........Why is it that you can advertise your beliefs and we can't? It's not like we're promoting evil by saying we don't believe in God or Satan. We just simply chose a different way of life. THAT'S IT! I've never once prayed or anything like that, and yet my life has been filled with good fortune (unfortunately not financially, LoL). I think, I will start a campaign of my own for athiests. If I ever become a millionare through the lottery or whatevers, I HERE TODAY, PROMISE TO DONATE 100% MY WINNINGS TO THE PROMOTTION OF ATHIESTS. But before we can do that, athiests need a symbol of some sorts. They have the cross, devil worshippers have the upside down cross and the star or whatever it's called (that symbol for the devil with the circle). Athiesm needs a symbol for us to reach out so we can place the symbol throughout America and then the world....muahahahha. LoL.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      How about a picture of the human brain – for free thinking. Or a series of "???" to signify ever questioning and expanding of knowledge. Or a flying spaghetti monster...errr...wait, nevermind, that one has been taken.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  12. ttwp

    Even the Bible itself acknowledges that some of the Apostale Paul’s writings are “difficult to understand” (2 Peter 16). These seem to be the starting point for the truth twisters. They begin with a seemingly problematic passage in the Bible, developing their unorthodox doctrines. But they don't stop with just Paul’s writings but distort the Scriptures as a whole. These perverters of Scripture do not stop here; they are not content unless they have twisted “the rest of the Scriptures” as well. Since the Scriptures agree, then one who sets aside the teaching of one author must, to be consistent, set aside other texts as well. They wish to point out a particular verse without humbly asking God for the answer themselves.

    A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

    They set it aside because them have no understanding and wish to remain in the darkness

    June 24, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • Ponter B

      Try using these 5 simple rules – it will make your life so much better and you'll be able to quit believing in a boogy man with anger issues.

      1) Identify a problem
      2) Research the problem
      3) Formulate a hypothesis
      4) Conduct an Experiment
      5) Reach a Conclusion

      June 24, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • ttwp

      Ponter B: You have five rules. I have one simple rule.

      "Seek the LORD your God and you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."

      June 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Ponter B

      Don't you have Ten Commandments you have to abide? And mine don't come attached with terms and conditions.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • ttwp

      Yes my terms and conditions means living a righteous life in honor of my Creator and Savior.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
    • Tom

      Ponter B, and ttwp – Actually, Christians no longer live under the Old Testament law, which is where the Ten Commandments can be found. Not to say they aren't nice rules to live by, but true Christianity, meaning followe of Jesus Christ, means believing Jesus died for us, thereby saving us by grace. There are only two commandments left. You can find those in Matthew 22:36-40.

      June 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  13. Jack Jones

    America is a Christian country. We have the power of nature, believe in the generosity of the salvation of Jesus Christ. Must be continued under the oath of allegiance to the gods.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Ponter B

      Power of nature? Did we finally perfect weather control systems in the US? As for your "Salvation", sounds like a bunch of people who don't want to take responsibility for their own actions if you ask me. The only oath I pledge is to the betterment and well being of Earth and all humanity.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      For some, "salvation" = 2 hail marys and a $20 in the plate on Sunday and all is well for the previous night of debauchery. Hypocrites!!! Follow your beliefs or don't follow them, there is no in between.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:41 am |
  14. DBrown1447

    We are everywhere. You keep up with your misguided efforts to turn this great nation into a theocracy but you can't stomp us out. This has always been a secular nation, and many of our founding fathers would not have been caught dead in a Xian church.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am |
  15. Joesph

    topprosecutor,
    Rule of the thumb is not in the bible.
    However it says "husbands love your wife"

    June 24, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • Drew

      Yeah, love your wife but if she disobeys you though, beat her! I guess the bible says it's okay to invoke BWS (Battered Wife Syndrome), the more you beat her, the more she'll love you? 😉

      But the bible also says it's an abomination to even look at her when it's that time of the month.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  16. topprosecutor

    If our laws were based on the bible it would be OK to beat your wife as long as it was with a stick no bigger than your finger.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • Ponter B

      Isn't there something about stoning misbehaving kids too?

      June 24, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Drew

      Also okay to sell your kids as well. I like the idea of being able to stone one to death for working the Sabbath, sounds like a good time.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:18 am |
  17. topprosecutor

    Murder is murder. If our laws were based on the bible, we would still have slavery and it would be OK to beat your slave, just not kill them.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  18. Ry

    Wow, why can't people just stop hating eachother. I am a firm believer in Christ – but I have athiests in my family and I love them dearly. Of course I want them to share my belief in Christ but that doens't mean I hate on them until they convert. We can all get along here people. Freedom of religion and speech is key if we are going to remain civil.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  19. Eva

    Wether you like it or not, believe or dont believe. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. We only have on prophecy left to be fufilled. The word of God says dont throw your pearls on pigs. Meaning dont waste your time trying to explain the truth (which is our treasure) to those who will only mock it. Are commission is to tell them, they have a choice to believe or not believe.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      Wether you like it or not, believe or dont believe. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. We only have on prophecy left to be fufilled. The word of God says dont throw your pearls on pigs. Meaning dont waste your time trying to explain the truth (which is our treasure) to those who will only mock it. Are commission is to tell them, they have a choice to believe or not believe.

      I don't mock your belief I simply do not believe in it. This blog is about christians "wasting their time" as you put it, complaining about a billboard that doesn't say what they want it to say. Put yourself in someone elses shoes...they see a billboard that says "The only way to everlasting life is through god". If they are Islamic that could be mocking their belief, if they are Wiccan it could be mocking their belief. If they are athiest they simply just don't believe it.

      June 24, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  20. topprosecutor

    Who wouldn't get angry when young children are murdered because the parents wanted to send them "to a better place" away from sin?

    June 24, 2010 at 10:59 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.