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. Eric G.

    So, now god created the big bang? This brings up a logic roadblock called infinite regression. If god created the universe and used the big bang to do it because only god can make something (energy) out of nothing, who or what created god? And who created god's creator.....and so on...... You are still inserting magic where your scientific understanding ends. You seem to be very interested in this topic. Please don't cheapen it by using the old "Well, that is what I believe" line. Provide some facts and proof please.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  2. PHIL

    Carbon dating is fact because it can be verified on any level. We couldn't go to space hundreds of years ago so the flat earth theory could't be verified. Nowadays, we can validate our discoveries in a way that was not possible centuries ago. This is science 101 stuff.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  3. Stephen Saunders

    Christianity is a Middle Eastern based religion so the ill informed that disparage the other religions of that region are simply not very bright. My people were converted to Christianity at the point of a sword. Nice religion you got there. Either way the billboard is really quite innocuous. Don't know why is upsets Christian's so much. It simply states that America is strong and undivided. A nice sentiment.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  4. Zack

    SamMO if you have read any of my comments you would know where I stand on the billboard issue, and it is exactly where I stand on the issue of Christian billboards, so please don't be rude by saying you Christian people practice what you preach, I have said over and over again that everyone has a right to their belief and I believe that both Christian and Atheist billboards are a waste of funding that could go to help many needy people. So please if you haven't read what has been said don't put your two cents in.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • SamMO

      Thats why i said people are just spending too much time on reiligion and not enough time on Life and stuff that really matters.
      We as Americans should not be wasting our time and money on this kind of topic.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
  5. Zack

    Thank You Phil, you don't have to endorse everything, neither do I. I am a Christian, just that, I am not Lutheran or baptist or anything else I am a Christian. Why because I believe everyone has their own beliefs. I believe in God you may not. Once again I believe we are all here for a choice, what others choose is not for me to decide.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  6. SamMO

    Why is it that this topic gets more comments and more views then topics that really matter?
    People freak out about Religion more than anything else in this world!
    How about you Christan people start practicing what you prech and show tolarence towards others you dont believe the same way as you. And start looking at what really matters.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
    • Vivian

      Amen! Church doors should have signs that read "Come hear, go and do"

      June 24, 2010 at 3:55 am |
  7. Zack

    This is difference between most atheists and myself, no respect for my beliefs. You say carbon dating is fact the same way hundreds of years ago it was a FACT that the earth was flat right.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  8. PHIL

    I agree on the creation of the big bang thing. This is why im agnostic and not athiest. I am open to the possibilty of a god, but I do not endorse the fairy tales that come with it.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  9. Darryl

    Those who say we are a Christian nation and if you don't like it move to Iraq or Iran are treating people the same way people get treated in Iraq or Iran. Believe as we do or suffer persecution and prejudice. They also show an ignorance to our basic principals of freedom to believe as we see fit and also fail to understand several of the founding fathers were not Christian such as Franklin, Jefferson and Paine. We are not a Theocracy, or a Fascist state which is where a theocracy would lead.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  10. PHIL

    It's been proven time and time again that the earth is billions of years old. Fossil and carbon dating is FACT, whether you want to believe so or not. To honestly believe that the earth is merely 6,000 years old is ignorant at best.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  11. way, truth, life

    Jesus is the way, truth, and life. He was without sin and died so that we, having fallen into sin, could have redemption. No billboard or temper tantrum from an unruly 4 year old refusing to love and obey their Father changes that. It's just a tragic shame that people willingly close their eyes to the truth and will miss out on knowing Him, the Creator of the Universe, preferring instead to have faith in themselves and randomness rather than designed creation. Wow, what a position – luck allowed we fallible humans to be the kings of the universe – what a depressing, short-sighted, and ultimately meaningful view of existence. Every eye and ear will one day have the proof they require – that He reigns. Blessed are those who do not see and yet, on faith, believe.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Stephen

      Santa Claus is swell too. And just as beliveable.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Drew

      Actually there's more evidence that a Santa Claus did exist, unlike Jesus.

      As for Jesus being born without sin or living a sinless life, I call BS. If you follow the bible, you'll understand that everyone is born with original sin. In order for Jesus to bypass original sin, Mary could not have been his mother because she was not exempt from original sin. Just another contradiction of the bible.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm |
    • Sitara

      So if I call my God "Allah" or "Krishna" I cannot at the same time be an American huh way,life..? Great – why don't we just declare America to be a Christian nation and breed evangelists like they breed terrorists in the Middle East?

      June 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
    • JennyTX

      Interesting theories you got there, way truth, life. Too bad you don't realize it's all made up by humans.

      June 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
    • John

      "Kings of the Universe"? Christians make up less that 25% of believers on Earth, which is one tiny planet in a vast universe that likely teems with life that has never heard of our planet's particular set of gods. Get over yourself.

      June 23, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  12. Jeremy

    I am an atheist. Does that make me less of an American?

    June 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • SamMO

      Jeremy no it does not

      June 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Nurse K in San Diego


      Well, you have Bush Sr, who once said in an interview that he didn't think atheists should be counted as American. And then there was a survey severl years ago in which they rated the most and least trusted people in America.. atheists came in last, after pedophiles and rapists.

      The illogic of anyone who would trust a pedophile over someone who does not practice idolatry is nauseating and says much about what is wrong with religion.

      June 23, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  13. Zack

    I believe God created the universe the same way I believe he used the big bang to do it, CREATING that massive amount of energy to create the universe and everything in it. If a universe never ending and ever expanding was created instantly it would look like a big bang. I just believe God created the big bang.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
  14. Eric G.

    Zack, you should read up on James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. Very interesting theory combining quantum physics with particle expansion. We will prove the big bang, just give it some time. Also, if the big bang did not take place, what proof or evidence can you provide that god created the universe? If humans lack a scientific understanding, that does not mean that it must have been magic.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Zack

    And that is were we differ and I respect your belief and your right to believe that, however I believe God created the universe.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  16. PHIL

    Nobody can explain the origin of the universe. It's impossible. It's one mystery that will never be solved. Too many contradictions and dogmas. Making up fairy tales to explain it isn't the right way to go about it however.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  17. Zack

    Yes I can believe in the existence of dinosaurs and believe in God. Science has been wrong many times before, we are continually having to correct things because the science we used to use was not accurate why not with fossil dating

    June 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  18. Zack

    The reason I know that the Bible does mention the dinosaurs is because in my early years that was one of the questions I had, so I did my research and found my answer.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  19. PHIL

    Fossil dating contradicts biblical dating. You can't believe in both without being hypocritical.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  20. Zack

    And also whoever said atheism isn't religion is absolutely correct, it is the void of religion

    June 23, 2010 at 5:15 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.