Atheist billboard attacks Romney’s faith, but Mormons say it's misleading
This billboard on wheels, sponsored by American Atheists, will follow the Romney campaign throughout southern Florida.
October 21st, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Atheist billboard attacks Romney’s faith, but Mormons say it's misleading

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – When he campaigns in southern Florida on Monday, Mitt Romney will have an unwelcome traveling partner: a mobile billboard attacking his religion.

The billboard on wheels, sponsored by American Atheists, attacks the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its treatment of African-Americans and gays, though the church says the attacks are inaccurate.

The billboard, which American Atheists says will follow the Romney campaign for seven days, features two messages on Mormonism: “No Blacks Allowed (until 1978)” and “No Gays Allowed (Current).”

The first line is a reference to the church’s practice of denying lay priesthood to black male members until 1978.

Though the church did not allow black male members to be ordained before that year - when the church head says he received a revelation to reverse the policy - it did allow blacks and members of all racial and ethnic groups to be church members. According to The Second Book of Nephi, a part of Mormon doctrine, “Black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God.”

The billboard’s second line refers to what American Atheists President David Silverman says is the religion's “intolerance” and “bigotry” when it comes to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

But the church denies such categorizations. It accepts gay members, though church doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed and the church strongly opposes same-sex marriage. Some gay rights activists say the church is subtly growing friendlier toward the LGBT community, including voicing support for some gay rights.

"People are surely free to disagree with us on the facts," Dale Jones, a church spokesman, wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "This group seems not to know that there have been black members of the Church since our earliest history, and there are many faithful gay members of the Church today."

Jones continued: "We would be happy to introduce the (American Atheists president) to any of our millions of members of different ethnicity who would be happy to educate him on our racial diversity."

Silverman denies the billboard, which is costing the group $8,000, is an attack on Romney specifically. A spokeswoman for the Romney campaign said she would not comment on the sign.

“Nobody seems to be talking about the implications of having a very religious Mormon president,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of things about Mormons that people don’t know, including the fact that racism is an important part of their dogma.”

The LDS Church has largely tried to stay out of the politics surrounding the presidential campaign, even though it has received increased attention due to Romney’s candidacy. This billboard, writes Jones, is "obviously" about the "personal politics" of American Atheists.

"We have consistently kept out of the political campaign," Jones wrote. "People can see this (billboard) for what it is."

American Atheists has a long history in using billboards to call out religion and get its message out. During the political conventions in August and September, the group put up billboards attacking Mormonism and Christianity, taking aim at the faith of both presidential candidates.

This mobile billboard, however, is a departure from the standard American Atheist tactic of multiple billboards on multiple religions. According to Silverman, this is because Romney’s faith hasn’t been addressed enough in the 2012 election.

“We all understand the implications of having a Christian president. We do not understand the implications of having a Mormon president,” Silverman said. “We are not taking a position on the election, we are taking a stance on ignorance.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Florida • Homosexuality • Mitt Romney • Politics • Race

soundoff (2,468 Responses)
  1. Ace

    The New Atheists embrace a belief system as intolerant, chauvinistic and bigoted as that of religious fundamentalists. They propose a route to collective salvation and the moral advancement of the human species through science and reason. The utopian dream of a perfect society and a perfect human being, the idea that we are moving towards collective salvation, is one of the most dangerous legacies of the Christian faith and the Enlightenment. Those who believe in the possibility of this perfection often call for the silencing or eradication of human beings who are impediments to human progress. They turn their particular good into a universal good. They are blind to their own corruption and capacity for evil. They soon commit evil, not for evil's sake but to make a better world.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • norman

      No, Ace-youre wrong. Atheists are the most reasoned, intelligent, inclusive people on the earth. They have studied all religions and of course found tehm to be false and influenced by man. Nothign to fear form an atheist.

      October 22, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  2. Dyslexic doG

    the upcoming election will prove two points.
    (a) that christians are believers according to convenience, and
    (b) that republican christians are republicans first and christians second

    Romney is a mormon which is a religion that, as well as co-optingsome parts and characters from the bible word for word, also contradicts and makes a mockery of so many key christian religious beliefs that it should be a bigger issue to christians than gay marriage and abortion. But ... the same way as christians always pick and choose which parts of the bible to loudly proclaim and which parts of the bible to pretend don't exist ... they will ignore all these issues and vote for Romney anyway.

    What do you think God/Jesus will think of you if you give your vote to a man who truly believes that he will one day be a God? Or a man who truly believes that Joseph Smith, a 19th century reknowned con-man, is an equal of Jesus?

    Go on christans, pretend you never read this post. Find some obscure bible quote that will justify you supporting a cult. What a joke!

    October 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  3. or


    October 22, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  4. Nate

    Mormons were abolitionists before it was cool! In 1843 Joseph Smith called on the U.S. Congress to sell the millions of acres of Federal public lands and use the money to purchase the slaves from their masters, to free them, educate them, and give them equal rights.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • G.I. G.I. Joe

      So then Mormons aren't Conservationists.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  5. Oliver Cowdry

    Will Romney and his eternal companion become a God and Godess one day?

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 346. Here then is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God, and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, is not trifling with you or me.

    October 22, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd rather be a god than bow to one.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  6. Marcia

    Why is it that you can't accept Romney as a Morman-but it is allright that he is a supreme iiar changing his positions drastically and weekly-THAT is what makes him UNelectable

    October 22, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • Ancient Texan

      Nope. Romney doesn't change, it's Obama's description of him that changes weekly

      October 22, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  7. Willie12345

    Hate continues to be strong.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  8. Steve From NH

    Romney is a Bishop in the Mormon Church. Something to think about....

    October 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • David

      No he isn't. Hasn't been for a number of years

      October 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
  9. Eric

    Anyone running for President of the United States who belongs to an organization that believes that Native American Indians are from Israel needs intense scrutiny.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  10. ankenyman

    Why tail only Romney? Obama supposedly has faith too. Atheists are hypocrites.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • G8R

      Read, then post.

      October 22, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • Lisa

      You have a point but it's somewhat weak. Mormons are rather extreme as compared to mainstream Christians, especially the racist part. Mainstream Christians have known for a few more decades that you at least have to hide your racism. Both groups are pretty harsh with regards to the LGBT community.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  11. Grimmmm reaper

    All religions are fallacy and size just makes it a larger cult.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  12. Scott

    I fear radical athiests like I fear radical anyone else. As long as Romney isn't going to act like bishop in chief, I really don't care if he's mormon, even if it's a made up religeon.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Nan Onnimus

      As if your religion (or any other one) isn't made up.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Define a radical atheist.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Tom

      Don't worry Scott you'll never encounter an atheist suicide bomber. Atheists seem to be intolerant of only one thing and that is intolerance.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That's a generalization Tom. I'm intolerant of many things and peoples.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • want2believe

      This is probably the least radical thing this group has done in awhile. It's proving a point without attacking the religion itself.

      @Tom, now lets be realistic. This atheist group is pretty intolerant with many of the billboards they sponsor and stuff they put out. I've been as disgusted with them as I have many religious organizations on many occasions.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  13. itsme

    These atheists are stupid. They have a right to do this but they also need to trail the Obama campaign and attach christianity the same way....oh, but they don't want to do that to Obama.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • G8R

      Read the article, then post. It's explained in the article

      October 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Ancient Texan

      Exactly-they have a problem with religion, but worship Obama.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • want2believe

      Guess y'all missed when they attacked the faiths of both men prior to the conventions... But for the specific issues dealing with the LGBT community, Romney clearly deserves more scrutiny then Obama.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  14. a dose of reality

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Nan Onnimus

      Bravo! It won't change many minds, but it was still very well written.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Reverend Roachclip and Toke the altar boy

      I like it.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • slated

      If I feel the need to belittle others for their ignorance while simultaneously demonstrating a profound level of ignorance regarding the beliefs of others I am:
      a) an atheist
      b) an atheist
      c) an atheist
      d) an atheist

      I would have given other choices, but obviously any choice other than atheism would be "irrational".

      October 22, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  15. Oliver Cowdry

    “We all understand the implications of having a Christian president...”

    One thing the Atheist got wrong, Mormons aren't Christian, there Mormons.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Carl

      That's not what that quote means.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • Nan Onnimus

      Two things you got wrong: "their" instead of "there; and Mormons follow the teachings of Jesus Christ - so how are they not Christians?

      October 22, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • me

      “We all understand the implications of having a Christian president. We do not understand the implications of having a Mormon president,” Silverman said.

      ^ maybe you should reread that

      October 22, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • John Sharp

      Dude who cares, Islam, Christianity, Church Of Scientology, etc..
      Same stupidity, same people fervently belonging to their childlike belief systems, just a different country that they grew up in.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Terencio

      Read first, then post.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  16. Reverend Roachclip and Toke the altar boy

    At least they're not picketing dead war heroes unlike other christians.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
  17. ForGoodOfAll

    Not sure if this will help or hurt Democrats. There are a lot of American citizens who vehemently dislike atheists. As an agnostic, the movement doesn't bother me. However, there are a lot of undecided Christian citizens that might be offended by the rather radical 'atheists against Romney' campaign & be swayed to vote for Romney. Just my opinion...

    October 22, 2012 at 7:49 am |
    • Franco

      That is my thought also. Romney has more to gain than lose, since that stance of the Mormon Church is well known. Atheists are not the brightest lights.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  18. Ismael

    It doesn't have to do with faith, but what he can bring to the table. This guy IS a cult member with ALL of what it implied. It the indoctrination and how he perceive non cult member what really bothers me.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:47 am |
  19. Keel Hauler

    Do you want a priest or a president? Every decision Romney makes will be tainted by his own overbearing faith.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Franco

      That is what they said about John F. Kennedy and he was a very liberal President.

      October 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  20. GetReal

    Much larger isssue.....Remember ANN'S wORDS.......3 OF THEM......"MENTAL WELL BEING"

    October 22, 2012 at 7:46 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.