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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. Drew

    Also on the note about you saying Muhammed being visited by angels and having no witnesses to back up his stories, I guess you throw out all those similar stories being told in your own bible I take it or at least take them with a grain of salt? Gotta watch what you say or you'll just put your foot in your own mouth. Kind of hypocritical to criticize Muhammed but not the same people with the same type of story of being visited by angels with no other witnesses around to back up such claims. Shall we start naming off the angel visitations mentioned in the bible? I didn't think so. So this is a very weak argument on behalf of your Jesus against Muhammed on who's right and who's wrong about the same god.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  2. Zack

    might have exposed an underwater ridge, which the Israelites crossed as if it were dry land. And also if you increase the ratio of those measurements the depth would increase as well.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • bostonjim

      Zack, you do have to admit that it is something of a leap from- "this is a scientifically possible scenario" to "this proves that Moses led the Isrealites out of Egypt via the Red Sea." While I have not seen all the data you seem to, I would imagine the average scientist would be careful in keeping that distinction alive. All in all, though, you seem to be a fairly well-reasoned guy, even if I disagree with your conclusions, so I give you credit for that. Also, while I agree that there are probably better uses for the money, those uses are basically limitless. And the odds are that money would not make a real dent in the world's ills. There is a benefit to using that money to raise a point about an issue you believe in.

      June 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  3. Mark

    O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
    Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
    Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
    Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
    Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
    And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
    O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

    June 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Zack

    It goes on to say that this campaign that they are running with these billboards has a cost of $15,000. I truly believe that that money could be used for much bigger and better things. Do I believe that there should be a separation of church and state. Absolutely because there are many different churches and I believe that God put us here to make a choice, it is not my decision to make some one's choice for them. So with that being said there should be a separation absolutely, however instead of making a big deal over it we can grow up and move on to more important objectives, like trying to help our fellow Americans.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  5. PHIL

    2.5 M huh? The red sea is 2,130m deep. Like i said, physically impossible.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  6. Nurse K in San Diego

    Can a Christian tell me why they would pledge allegience to a flag or a republic when the Bible clearly says that your allegience should be first to God, then to your fellow man?

    Can a Christian tell me when the US has ever been "under God"? God didn't give us this land, our forebearers took it from the previous residents, oppressing them, leaving them in a state of pverty and dispair. Throughout the history of our nation, others, here and abroad, have been oppressed, many lives and communities have been laid waste by our lust for power, covetousness, anger, jealousy, and so forth. We've committed acts of war against other nations simply to gain control of their resources and make ourselves richer/safer/whatever. We've discriminated against everything and everyone that has frightened or offended us. The list is long, the offences enormous.

    This is no nation under God. The claim that it is profanes the very idea of God as the source of goodness, justice, mercy, and love.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • Guest

      What I really miss are all the Human Sacrifices being performed on the Aztec pyramids, wait are abortions a form of this still?

      Did your ancestors really do that? Or are those just the good old days.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Nurse K in San Diego

      My guess is that many of our ancestors did much worse.

      I wasn't putting down my country, rather, pointing out the fact that God/goodness is not at play here despite all the lip service paid to them by many who profess belief in them. I've known many a person who will set aside everything the Bible says about love, mercy, forgiveness, and so forth if "The Country" calls on them to do so. The over-abundance of "Christian Soldiers" serving in the military is evidence enough of that.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  7. JP

    I am a skeptic and the word God does not bother me one bit. I think if that you are focusing on the word God in the pledge you are just going out of your way to complain. God is not a proper name, God = creator which could also mean big bang which equals creator or at least the event that created everything as we know it. If your offended by the pledge or currency becasue the word God...you are an idiot. I hate to be so bold but come on people. There is so much crap going on in this world that this is the battle you are choosing???????

    June 23, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • Cameron

      The point is this country is founded on the freedom of religion. "Under God" was inappropriatley added to it until the 1950's. This country is not supposed to cater to one religion over another... or lack of religion. All it does is cause a rift in this country

      June 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • JP

      I think you forget that freedom of religion really means freedom of Christian religion...at least that is the way it was intended.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
    • Rinoa

      This country is founded on freedom of religion. The puritans, Quakers, sought freedom from persecution and were the first settlers. When we declared our Independence from England and formed our own country, the founders set up a government with freedom for and freedom from religion. However, that did not make our government controlled by religion or any one particular religion. The settlers and the emigrants from Europe were tired of religious governments ruling their lives. So they founding fathers created one where anyone can believe, and the government could not interfere. This also includes the freedom NOT to believe.

      This is not a Christan country, read the Treaty of Tripoli Article 11. It says, " As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" and it is signed by President John Adams

      June 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  8. welp

    theres your fact right there, it actually did happen

    http://www.TheGreatSeaParting.on.nimp.org

    June 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  9. Zack

    sorry i mixed up the words in translation

    June 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
  10. Texasnative

    I was reared in a small conservative community in central Texas where my family was active in an equally conservative Baptist Church. I didn't agree with President Eisenhower's addition of "under God" to the Pledge Of Allegience. Over the years, I've disliked it more and with our growing multi-cultural and shrinking Christian citizenship, it seems more senseless each day. I am strongly in favor of the Pledge Of Allegience and National Anthem in public venues, but we should leave God to our homes and churches. Prayer should be a very personal experience and not a public display.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Guest

      Everyone would free to worship themselves if God was out of the picture. Is that what your saying?

      June 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
  11. Zack

    he parting of the Red Sea is "plausible from a physical point of view." Using a common phenomenon called wind set-down effect, he found that "a northwesterly wind of 20 m/s blowing for 10-14 h is sufficient to cause a sea level drop of about 2.5m." Such a drop in sea level,

    time you learn to use the internet.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Kieran

      So, just a 45 mile an hour wind in a constant direction for 14 hours without letting up for a second. Also, the people who recorded the event wrote it as if Moses just had to gesture and the waters receded rather than it being a slow, gradual process that took all day. Also, they didn't mention that it was a really notably windy day. Also, since the red sea doesn't actually reach the Mediterranean, you don't have to go through it, you can go around it, and the only places where it's shallow enough for this wind trick to work, you're quite close to the point where you can just go around.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  12. Zack

    First website I just came across, here ya go http://www.slate.com/id/2215127

    June 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  13. Zack

    Marty I am not taking pleasure in the explaining, I am taking pleasure in the conversation. To get back to the original topic with Bonk, I think this billboard is waste of money that could be used elsewhere, the same way I feel about the Christian billboards. All these billboards to promote religious or non religious beliefs are a waste of money, that could go to help many people in this country that are in serious need right now.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • WOO!!

      THIS I CAN AGREE WITH

      YES 🙂

      June 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  14. PHIL

    I googled set down wind effect. No such effect exists. Time to try harder.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  15. Marty

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

    June 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • TheRationale

      I think the one of the best marketing strategies for Christians who quote the Bible would be to stop doing so. If I were on your advertising team, I'd get rid of it all together. I'm not trying to be on the attack here, I just mean to say that by using quotes, especially those that ridicule non-believers, you essentially give your intended audience every reason not to listen to you. I mean, it's like someone saying "There is no God" ~Common Sense. That isn't going to make you change your mind, it will just make whoever said it become that much more annoying and give you more reason to not listen to them.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  16. Bonk :3

    Elgeevz has the best point of all. I learned this long ago, why am I trying to prove extremely, extremely simple things to you guys. If you believe zombie dads did this, old guy split a sea in half, jews on ice, raining frogs or something whatever this is just some dang goofy stuff.

    The original post for those who came just for the comment-fights was that a billboard exists now and it's a great billboard and I'm going to split a sea of christian-tears and head home so I don't get washed away in them. Ya'll silly.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  17. Zack

    It isn't that it is done by a person if you would have gone and looked that up you would know that the set down wind effect is natural occurrence.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
    • Eric G.

      So.......... if it was a natural occurance, that means that your god had nothing to do with it?

      June 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  18. Zack

    Phil I believe 99% of science, some things I don't believe. The fact that science states energy cannot be created nor destroyed completely disproves any scientific explanation for the creation of the universe.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  19. PHIL

    Set wind down effect huh? Then why couldn't they go to the actual red sea and do it there? A 3 inch dish is slightly scaled down.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  20. Zack

    The same way Jews or anyone else in that time frame would of laughed at the fact that two people could talk to each other over a thousand miles away in this day in age.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:39 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.