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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. S. Johnson

    I love and believe in God. I believe that Jesus died for our sins. I have faith. I pray. I read the bible. I am not perfect. I lean on God for strength, love, therapy, forgiveness, healing, etc. I wish more people would do the same. I've seen how God works in my life and others' lives. I know too much to turn back now. He is my everything. He blesses me and others everyday. He has such grace, mercy, and an unfailing love. He is my rock. He's the power that saves me and my place of safety. God bless you all...

    July 16, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  2. Bill Fitzgerald

    To John 14.6 Accept Christ as my personal Savior? How about keeping the commandments? He is my Savior whether I like it or not. And his love is there regardless. However, if I am to be blessed by him, I must keep the commandments which include repentance of course for all of us imperfect people. Nevertheless it is a commandment, to "be ye therfore perfect". Something to strive for, eh? Is it not amazing that the Atonement guarantees every living creature on this earth and all others, resurrection. Judgement day at the end of the Millenium and how we live our lives will determine which kingdom we enter. This is so simple, it would seem that most people already know this.

    July 3, 2010 at 6:49 pm |
  3. Bill Fitzgerald

    Free country? Can we determine the worth of soldiers who fought for this country? In a multiple choice format, I doubt one of the answers would be "free". And what about the founding fathers who declared independence and placed themselves pretty much on the "hit list" for treason against England. And what about He who is the framer and builder of this earth and countless others whos blood and sinless, unblemished sacrifice, otherwise known as the Atonement, was provided by his own choice and His Fathers will. This land was saved and prepared for us for these latter days for the establishment of His Church which could be restored nowhere else on earth but only to a nation with freedom of religion. Now if that is what you meant by free then we agree, freedom of worship.

    July 3, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  4. Kunst

    This is a free country, not a Christian one. Our founding fathers, while religious and largely Christian, were wise enough to know that belief must be individual. All coercion, direct or indirect, by government or others, is morally wrong.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  5. NickB5

    History of The Pledge of Allegiance.

    Francis Bellamy (1855 – 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897). Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex. The Pledge was published in the September 8th issue of The Youth's Companion, the leading family magazine and the Reader's Digest of its day. Its owner and editor, Daniel Ford, had hired Francis in 1891 as his assistant when Francis was pressured into leaving his baptist church in Boston because of his socialist sermons. As a member of his congregation, Ford had enjoyed Francis's sermons. Ford later founded the liberal and often controversial Ford Hall Forum, located in downtown Boston. In 1892 Francis Bellamy was also a chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association. As its chairman, he prepared the program for the public schools' quadricentennial celebration for Columbus Day in 1892. He structured this public school program around a flag raising ceremony and a flag salute – his 'Pledge of Allegiance.' His original Pledge read as follows: 'I pledge allegiance to my Flag and (to*) the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' He considered placing the word, 'equality,' in his Pledge, but knew that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. [ * 'to' added in October, 1892. ]

    In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference, under the 'leadership of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution, changed the Pledge's words, 'my Flag,' to 'the Flag of the United States of America.' Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored. In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, 'under God,' to the Pledge. The Pledge was now both a patriotic oath and a public prayer. Bellamy's granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his socialist sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

    June 29, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  6. John D

    I really love the folks who claim that this country was built on Christian values. Yeah, like slavery, genocide and destruction of indigenous cultures and the war of aggression against Mexico (1846-1848) to steal its land for U.S. expansion. The so called "Christians" who make these claims need to supplement their bible studies with some history lessons. The founding fathers were not Christians, as is often claimed. They were deists who understood that the bible was just a book. Not the literal word of an unknown supernatural being. The Christian folks who rant about how atheists should move to Iran actually have more in common with that theocracy than with the founding principles of this nation.

    June 29, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • NickB5

      Our Founding Fathers were predominantly made up of Deists, Unitarians and Freemasons and while there was quite an assortment of early American religions (Calvinist, Quakers, Shakers, Mennonites, Congregationalists, etc.), they played a smaller roll in the founding of this nation than is portrayed by today's Christian sects. "In God We Trust" wasn't even our Nations motto officially until 1956 (brought to you by the same McCarthy era Congress that added "Under God" for our ironically socialist born Pledge of Allegiance), prior to that E Pluribus Unum (Latin for "One from many" or "One from many parts.") was our Nation's motto and has been in official use on The Great Seal of The United States of America since 1782, and you can still find it on our currency.

      June 29, 2010 at 9:07 pm |
  7. lili

    I hate when people think you have to have had a bad experience with christians to not believe in religion or god. Some of us are just not ignorant to believe everything we are told.
    btw so you have to be harrassed about 17 times and a jesus saved me story and then you will convert. Ha! good one.

    June 29, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  8. John14:6

    I am praying, not arguing about this issue because no one comes to faith in Christ by being argued to death... It only leads to anger. Statistics say that the average person needs about 17 good experiences with Christians and hearing the story of salvation before they are willing to accept Christ as their Personal Savior. I am praying that if you have had bad experiences with Christians that will change in the future. A billboard is not the "real" issue here.

    June 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  9. JOHN = "Man of God"

    How indivisible is a nation if it's fussing over this crap?

    June 27, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
    • Rinoa

      Yes, which is why it is imperative that we go back to the pre 1950's, original, version of the pledge... not an edited one that divides us.

      June 28, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  10. JOHN = "Man of God"

    The fact that my Internet window froze after I tried to post a comment about them taking "indivisible" off, shows that either someone else had the same comment, or they're trying to take our religious freedoms back away as well as everything else!

    June 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  11. tea

    In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (proverbs 3:6)

    June 27, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  12. EqualTime4All

    I think it is time to start recognizing other beliefs. I am amazed how inexpensive the rental rates are. I'm going to start raising money to lease the boards when they become available. I'm thinking about a similar sign but with 'One Nation, Under Allah, Indivisible..." After all, I have been writing it on my money for a while now. We could even have a deity of the month club, or better yet deity du jour, but that would probably be better with an electronic sign.

    June 27, 2010 at 3:30 am |
  13. Reality

    Glory to the Big Bang and the Gib Gnab. The universe is and alway will be as it recycles itself in modes of expansion and shrinkage. Welcome to 21st century's astrophysics and billions of years of evolution!!! No god needed or required!!!!!

    June 27, 2010 at 12:01 am |
  14. HeIsGod

    @ LB Colorado – You commented:
    So you say take Him out, well good luck with that and let me know how that is working for you. You will probably say great, cause you do not know any better. I don't want to hear it when your world gets shook right to your core person. He is who He is and you or anyone else cannot change that. God is bigger than you, He brought you in and He can take you out, just as you have done to Him.

    WORK IT!!!!! AWESOME!!!! GLORY TO GOD!!!

    June 26, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  15. Klrichi

    It seems odd to me that so many people in this response are telling people who are not christian to move out of the country. It seems to me that they are considering other places in the world a punishment. Do they not understand that the US is one of the most religiously unapproving cultures, at least from my perspective living in the bible belt. There are many places outside the states that are welcoming of other religions and ideals. Are they just saying that living in another place is a punishment? Is America so above everyone else that living here is somehow heaven and everywhere else hell? Are they saying that every other place is somehow a third world and beneath them? That seems like a flawed idea to me.

    June 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      I was just surprised to see that even Christians wasted their time arguing with Atheist over on little bulletin board. When read about it, it made me laugh. No sign, bulletin board, or announcement will determine the Faith we have in Christ, unless their faith is weak. I thought it was ridiculous to argue, period. I love my family in Christ, but there are times when all of us need to be rebuked. Why lose focus? Over a bulletin board, over Atheists? WOW, life is to short! We need to work out our salvation and do the will of our Father God to preach His word, not our word. God bless my family in Christ and may God have mercy on all unbelievers.

      June 26, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  16. disturbed

    Also, Steve – I suggest – seriously suggest – taking your questions to someone who walks in a relationship with God – not follows a religion of it. You will be very able to tell a difference between these people if you really want answers to these questions – because then you will be open enough to find someone to truly be willing to sit with you (non-judgmentally and without condemnation) and talk with you about your questions – so you can truly receive an answer. Because here on an online forum, while this is a great tool for discussion – it cannot, or ever will, replace person to person (face to face) contact.

    June 26, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      That is so true; talking to someone face to face will make such a big difference than here on the forum. I have talked with many Atheists and some of them get angry, but I have seen others that even with their doubt, they become curious about God. I have ever met an Atheist in person before and speaking to them through forum has helped me get to know them better. At first, it was very frustrating, because I didn't know who they really were. But God had to teach me to be tolerant towards them, and it isn't easy. I have to control myself and no allow them to get the best of me. The Lord has really helped me and I have managed to become very strong. I thank God that I have met Atheist online because God is preparing me to become strong for those that I will meet face to face. I have love for souls and I pray that God will use His people to bring many to Christ.

      June 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
    • steve88

      on the internet you can remain anonymous, as in reality you will be openly ostracized for not being a part of the majorities acceptance. Those who seek a greater understanding of varied idea will pit their ideas against one another, what better place than the internet?

      "Because here on an online forum, while this is a great tool for discussion – it cannot, or ever will, replace person to person (face to face) contact." I happily disagree, as the internet is when people discuss their ideas at their most truly personal and open level. Face-Face discussions lack truth, and enforce conformity via social peer pressure. =P

      June 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • steve88

      "I happily disagree, as the internet is when people discuss their ideas at their most truly personal and open level...Face-Face discussions lack truth, and enforce conformity via social peer pressure. =P"

      -well with the obvious exception of internet trolls, who only care about the reactions & emotions of others. haha

      June 28, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  17. disturbed

    Steve, are you even reading anything anyone is commenting about that even remotely goes against the very grain you hold to? This is my trouble with a great majority of people – it matters not what religion they follow (or even if they are a Christian or an Atheist) – that people read/hear what they desire either to get to the point where they can jump in and immediately give their input (never mind what the other person has to say), or they just completely obliterate it out of their minds. They completely shut down, because they only focus on what they think, how they feel, what their opinions area. It matters not what religion anyone holds to (and I am lumping Atheists in here now because of the dramatic revealing of it becoming more and more of a religion), or even who holds to a relationship with Christ – it matters if we are truly, truly willing (as people) to listen to others who differ from us; period. And more and more, I am finding the answer to this question is no. More and more people are just out there to get their viewpoints across, to make their voices be heard, to make sure everyone else knows who they are. Seriously folks? When did any of this...all of this...become about us? Talk about an idolatrous society that infiltrates this world (not just America). It was very much one back in the day of our Biblical forefathers, but it is just so blatant and everywhere today.

    June 26, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • steve88

      Not everyone tunes out when it comes to a given topic. I was a theist for my life, raised roman catholic. Then I saw the light. =P
      Your right that people tend to tune others out most of the time, but people have little chance of understanding a new idea if you have never come in contact with it either. The internet is a sharing of many varied ideas. Perhaps my understanding will change my mind in the future, or perhaps others will see the same bit of logic I have come to accept, or not. That is kind of the fun of debates though.

      June 28, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
    • steve88

      *i was a theist for most of my life. (roman catholic)

      ~The Internet certainly helped alter my state of mind of the topic of religion; Youtube satire like Ed Current, the history of religion(s), and online debates are personally what changed my mind. I really find it hard to accept that I would have come to the same conclusions (or mental state) about the topic via face-to-face discussions. =/

      June 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  18. HeIsGod

    @ steve88 – That’s the problem, man-made religion. Mankind are weak human beings, spiritually, who want to dominate others and we have seen that religion has been such a discouragement to many people. This happens when mankind prefer to put their eyes and trust in men that are corrupted, evil, and deceiving. Christianity is not a religion, as you can see, Christ –ian, has the name of Christ. We are called Christians because we are followers of Christ. Men don’t have a golden rule. But Jesus Christ is the Golden Gate to heaven that many will not enter because they have chosen the road of destruction that leads to the path of eternal hell. All these religion you mention, are man-made. Those religions are the road of destruction. Christ is the ONLY WAY. There is no other name upon the face of this earth or in heaven that a man shall be saved except through the name of Jesus Christ. My personal experience with Christ, it has been to most beautiful relationship I have ever experience with Him, but for those that reject Him, not only will their souls be lost, they will never be able to experience the beauty of His presence in their lives.

    SIN with in one's life, home, church, or a nation displeases God and God said that the wicked shall not go unpunished. It is His desire to bless us, but as long as we are living in darkness, being stiff-neck and stubborn towards Him, how can we expect His blessing?

    June 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  19. HeIsGod

    Hey, I remember reading this article at work the other day and an Atheist was the very first one to post....boy, was I laughing!! Bonk3 got excited over a bulletin board? WOW, what ever rocks an Atheist world....okay. So, what does this bulletin mean to us who love Jesus Christ...hmmmm NOTHING!!!! LOOOL, this doesn't determine our Faith!

    AMERICA, WAKE UP! YOU WILL BE SHAKING WITH A SHAKE LIKE NEVER BEFORE!!!

    ou flaunted yourselves above the world; you flaunted yourselves above your neighbor and your neighbors: brother against brother, kingdom against kingdom, people against people, Christian against Christian in your ungodly attempt to self-glorify yourselves. Both in the church and throughout America your leaders religiously, politically and economically are vain, corrupt and amoral. You are fast losing the salt, the purity that has held you together; that has made you great, if not the greatest of all nations.

    But, I will bring you down; like the wind brings down the tree, so I will bring you down.

    You will not escape my wrath; for it is an expression of my love, my deep love that will do all it can to get your attention before my eternal wrath, to remove all those who do not and will not love thy neighbor, will fall.

    Some say, many say, 'Oh, we will escape. It will not happen to us; for we are your elect; we are God's chosen.' But, I say, you have blinded yourselves with your own vanity. My elect are not the people, the church in America; but my elect are the people of the world that are called by my name and do my will on earth as it is done in heaven. Not people with a false tongue of divination of thy heart, but of divination of my will.

    For you are a thankless, godless, amoral generation that has been raised by the philosophies of the heathen and I will challenge your philosophies till you hate me and my people. My people will not escape your wrath - the wrath of the world as some falsely teach; for only the world's wrath will open their eyes clearly to what I am saying so they are prepared to meet me.

    I am coming quickly for a people, a church without spot or wrinkle; a blood washed, blood soaked people who are really called Christian; not the hypocritical, self-righteous, self-taught, self-educated fool who propitiates his own dogma today.

    June 26, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • steve88

      your beliefs in the supernatural is just your way to cope with the unknown, especially death. Every Supernatural claim, Deities, Karma, reincarnation, Holy books/dogma, ... all such claims are unknowable, unprovable, and unlikely. Why not just treat others as you would like to be treated? No need for morality to based on supernatural claims; as morality works well when centered around the golden rule.
      ~a bit off topic -sorry. =P

      June 26, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ steve88 – Every individual, as the bulletin says, is responsible for their deeds on earth. It doesn't matter what others believe, you will not have to answer to God for them, you will have to answer to God for "steve88". Today is the day of Salvation! The Lord is the GOLDEN GATE of ETERNAL life! Open up your eyes, before it's too late, my friend.

      June 26, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Sorry, I didn't mean to add "as the bulletin says"

      June 26, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
    • steve88

      why would he punish me for not believe in one of his religions & dogma; (islam-koran, judaism-the torah, Christianity-bible)
      -how do i know there is a abrahamic deity?
      or believe that he is more likely man made like religions always have been?
      Why would such a deity be mad that I lived my life by the knowledge that man creates religions &and deities to explain things...
      Wouldn't such a deity be upset that people create their morality based on man-made religions? They can't all be right.

      June 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      That’s the problem, man-made religion. Mankind are weak human beings, spiritually, who want to dominate others and was we have seen, religion has been such a discouragement to many people. This happens when mankind prefer to put their eyes and trust in men that are corrupted, evil, and deceiving. Christianity is not a religion, as you can see, Christ –ian, has the name of Christ. We are called Christians because we are followers of Christ. Men don’t have a golden rule. But Jesus Christ is the Golden Gate to heaven that many will not enter because they have chosen the road of destruction that leads to the path of eternal hell. All these religion you mention, are man-made. Those religions are the road of destruction. Christ is the ONLY WAY. There is no other name upon the face of this earth or in heaven that a man shall be saved except through the of name of Jesus Christ. My personal experience with Christ, it has been to most beautiful relationship I have ever experience with Him, but for those that reject Him, not only will their souls be lost, they will never be able to experience the beauty of His presence on their lives.

      June 26, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  20. disturbed

    Honestly, this screams nothing more to me than Athiesim and Secularism are becoming just like any other "-ism" – a religion. The one thing people fail to understand about being a Christian is that it is NOT a religion – it is not an "-ism" (or even an "-anity" – it is a complete relationship with God. Most people make a mockery out of what is intended for good, and muck it up and create their own graven images out of it and slap a bunch of rules on it, slap a few Biblical Scriptures to "back it all up" and call it Christianity. It is unfortunate, because this is the farthest thing God ever desired for this world, and the human race whom He created to have a relationship with Him through a choice; through love. It is people who have made it a religious debacle. And honestly, the Atheistic and and Secular people now are no better by doing this (with this display) than those who are on the religious side of being a Christian.

    I will just continue to build my relationship with God through my walk with Christ – and just fervently pray my mind and heart doesn't get too jaded with all of this.

    June 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • steve88

      Your just upset that this nation was not founded on any specific religion, and especially your religion, Christianity.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • steve88

      (nor was it founded on "Atheism" or "Agnosticism" admittedly. )

      June 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
    • steve88

      *not founded on any specific ism, or religion, or set of beliefs, which can be a bit fuzzy.

      Treaty of Tripoli; "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;" 1797.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ disturbed – AMEN!!! GLORY TO GOD!!!

      RELIGION are human beings working their way to God, but fails! It's leader religiously, politically and economically are vain, corrupt and amoral. You are fast losing the salt, the purity that has held you together; that has made you great, if not the greatest of all nations.

      CHRISTIANITY IS GOD working HIS way to men and women, through a RELATIONSHIP through JESUS CHRIST.
      JOHN 3:16 – "For GOD so LOVED the WORLD that HE gave HIS ONLY begotten SON, that whosoever BELIEVES in HIM, shall NOT parish, but have EVERLASTING LIFE". – GLORY TO GOD!!!

      June 26, 2010 at 6:07 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.