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CPAC reverses decision, will not allow atheist group at conservative conference
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, will not have a booth at CPAC.
February 25th, 2014
02:53 PM ET

CPAC reverses decision, will not allow atheist group at conservative conference

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington - Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth at the conservative conference, the group's spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.

Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

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"I'm surprised and I'm saddened," Silverman said in response to the announcement.  "I think this is a very disappointing turn of events.  I was really looking forward to going."

Representatives of CPAC called Silverman Tuesday afternoon and said they would be returning the group's money, Silverman said.

"It is very obvious to me they were looking for a reason to say no," Silverman added.  "Christianity is bad for conservatism and they did not want that message out there."

In an interview with CNN on Monday night, Silverman said his group planned to use the booth to bring conservative atheists “out of the closest” and said he was not worried about making the Christian right angry because “the Christian right should be threatened by us.”

Snyder said CPAC spoke to Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language.

“He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism.  People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference.  He has left us with no choice but to return his money,” she said.

When Snyder confirmed to CNN on Monday that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

“The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for,” Snyder said.

The Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest and oldest gathering of conservatives, is run by the American Conservative Union and will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland's National Harbor from March 6 to 8. Last year, the event brought together thousands of activists to listen to dozens of Republican leaders speak about everything from economics and foreign policy to social issues. The event has long been considered a required stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.

The decision to include American Atheists outraged some conservatives, with many taking to Twitter to voice their disapproval.

According to Silverman, Dan Schneider, the executive director of the American Conservative Union, called him to talk about the group's inclusion in the event and the response from conservatives members.

In a statement to CNN on Monday night, Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think-tank Family Research Council, expressed outrage at the decision, stating that the American Atheists did "not seek to add their voice to the chorus of freedom."

"CPAC's mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense," said Perkins, who spoke at CPAC in 2012. "Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense."

"If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the 'C' in CPAC!" the social conservative leader added.

American Atheist is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns and is considered the in-your-face contingent in the world of atheist activists. The group’s members pride themselves as being the “Marines" of the atheist movement.

The atheist organization paid $3,000 for booth 439 in the event’s exhibition hall. That money will now be returned. Its booth was set to be right next to the Republican National Committee’s booth.

In explaining why the group decided to join CPAC on Monday, Silverman cited a 2012 Pew Research study that found 20% of self-identified conservatives consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. While that does not mean they are atheists, Silverman believes learning more about atheism will make it more likely conservatives will choose to identify with those who believe there is no God.

“Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives," Silverman said at the time. This “is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.”

The group has long targeted Republican lawmakers, although Silverman considers the organization nonpartisan.

In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. All three Republicans have spoken at CPAC in the past.

On one billboard, Santorum is pictured to the left of a quote attributed to him. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God’s law,” the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tagline: "GO GODLESS INSTEAD."

The group has also prided itself on trying to reach into religious communities and help "closeted atheists" come out, as it did in a 2012 billboard campaign aimed at Jews and Muslims.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Politics

soundoff (829 Responses)
  1. Semper Cogitatus

    So they are not actually banning atheists, they are uninviting a liberal political organization from a conservative gathering.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
    • SeaVik

      What makes you think it's a liberal organization?

      February 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
    • johnbiggscr

      No, they are banning an atheist group because they are atheist and some conservatives moaned about it.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
      • Lucifer's Evil Twin

        because they can't risk having the christian religi-tard drones getting all confused

        February 25, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • worldlypatriotusaveteran

      American Atheists a "liberal" organization?

      Another ridiculous stereotype. It's just as inaccurate as: citizens from Southern USA states are "conservative."

      Atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers of religious faith come from all political orientations.

      February 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      They were trying to disentangle conservative politics from conservative Christianity.
      I guess Falwell and the Reaganauts did a pretty thorough job. Thanks a lot, "Moral Majority".

      February 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm |
  2. Sol Invictus

    Ecce venit BUTIO!

    February 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I'll have mustard on mine thanks ...

      February 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
  3. johnbiggscr

    'Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense."

    And with that in mind we are going to refuse them the right to speak.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
  4. nikobelic2014

    Good!! Atheism is nothing but a growing cancer in our country

    February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
    • bostontola

      That's not the only good news, Christianity is a shrinking cancer in our country.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
    • SeaVik

      I suppose atheism is like a cancer in that it's growing and you're not going to stop it unless you're able to beat the bad odds using science.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • mariosphere

      Such narrowmindedness is saddening.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm |
    • yellownumber6

      Yep, keep that "Big Tent" limited to white, straight Christians – it's going to be the death of the GOP.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:54 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        or the rebirth of the Klan

        February 25, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
  5. bostontola

    ""If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the 'C' in CPAC!" the social conservative leader added.

    That "C" stands for Cowards.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
  6. Heaven Sent

    Studies prove that believers are more intelligent than atheists. The Bible is 100% true in all facets and that is true. Only two of the kittens missed the wading pool on the way down. Arrogant satan worshippers will get what they asked santa for.

    Amen.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:33 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You need to toss in a few more uses of the words "carnal" and "dry bones" to get that authentic HeavenScent...

      February 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm |
    • bostontola

      That same study proved that Communism is the best economic system, Country Music is the best music, McDonalds makes the best food, and Fox has the best news. I love that study, it also proved that Jesus is Lord.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
    • Heaven Sent

      Carnal atheists, always believing in having fun and never hearing and learning with your eyes. My 12-year-old daughter borrowed my flea and tick shampoo and didn't return it. Your dry dusty bones will be swept away by the wind of Jesus, who is the Lord.

      Amen.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
      • bostontola

        Carnal...mmmm

        February 25, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • reinstatepete

        I didn't realize they gave patients at the facility this much time on the computer.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:48 pm |
    • dale3242

      Actually religiosity is associated with a lower IQ. "In a 2013 meta-analysis, led by Professor Miron Zuckerman, of 63 scientific studies about IQ and religiosity, a negative relation between intelligence and religiosity was found in 53 out of 63, and a positive relation in the remaining ten. Controlling for other factors, they can only confidently show strong negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity among American Protestants."

      February 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • reinstatepete

      And the cuckoo bird said what?

      February 25, 2014 at 3:46 pm |
    • reinstatepete

      If you are an adult and still believe in fairy tales you are clearly not that intelligent.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
    • Heaven Sent

      Now even more carnal atheists creep out from under their rocks to throw their socks at Jesus, who loves them. Your dried up bones will be scattered all over the mall we Christians shop in. My camel-toe sent the steak back. Keep believing in the lies of your father and blow away.

      Amen.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:50 pm |
  7. noddy93

    That's a mighty big tent ya got there Mr. Republican.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm |
  8. karali1975

    Boo Hoo for conservocrats who complain about others not respecting their beliefs, yet they show zero respect for anyone else's, time and time again – e.g – gays are sinners not unlike those who practice beastilaity (according to Cpac favorite Phil Robertson), yet they refuse to admit this is offensive to other people's belief systems and cry victim all the time. It's as if stupidity and hypocrisy were the key criterium to belong to CPAC

    February 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  9. Robert Brown

    “Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives," Silverman said at the time. This “is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.”

    Yes, by all means, we need more atheists in church pews. How else can they hear the good news.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I always laugh when I hear your fairy stories described as "good news". LOLOLOL

      February 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      But what if they pick the wrong church?
      I live in the most multi-cultural city in the world.
      There are more houses of worship of various stripes than there are hours in the day!

      February 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        I prefer Baptist and I realize there are many of those too. Some doctrine matters, some not so much. Avoid at all cost those who believe in predestination and you should be ok.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          You misunderstand me.
          Over half of my city's population come from outside the country.
          The term "visible minority" hardly applies here as 49% of the citizenry fall into that category.
          Fully 1/4 of us have no religious affiliations.
          50% are Christian with half of those identifying as Catholic.
          We've also a significant Muslim Population, as well as Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Scientologists.
          The B'hai church here is considered a global model for that religion.

          February 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm |
        • Robert Brown

          You should move, just kidding.

          You are correct some of them could be in the wrong church. The answer to the following question should help them decide if they are worshipping God. Does your present and eternal security depend on what you do (works), or what you believe (faith)?

          February 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          A word means nothing wanting action.
          Intentions are valuable as deeds.
          And a wound can dog you for a lifetime,
          Unless it only makes you bleed.

          Everybody knows what's in their heart is right.

          – Dr. Greg Graffin

          February 25, 2014 at 4:23 pm |
    • Løki

      Wir werden nicht mit angehaltenem Atem warten auf dieses "gute Nachricht" tatsächlich beginnen ...

      February 25, 2014 at 3:37 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        Der Retter ist da! Jeder tag....

        February 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm |
  10. Apple Bush

    Man, this sucks. Think of all the great swag they would have been giving away. Atheist pencils and antennae balls and mints.....bummer.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
  11. Apple Bush

    Overtones on the strings pull the music;

    Sirens wail their counter-punctual betrayal;

    Echoes vibrate as trees keep time;

    Liars lie over and over;

    The emptiness vibrates;

    Over and over.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      The best lack conviction
      While the worst are full of passionate intensity.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Indeed.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
  12. SeaVik

    Ha! Thanks for making it even more obvious that the GOP is run by a bunch of close-minded idiots!

    February 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      They really can't help themselves. It is so ingrained in them that they simply cannot fathom a different world view than their own.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • SeaVik

        It's hard to believe that a half of our country votes for these bigots.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          Fox News.

          February 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • Doc Vestibule

          Don't blame me. I voted for Kodos.

          I say, we must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

          February 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
      • shiftyvision

        Please tell me you're kidding... Is the right forcing others to adopt their beliefs? No, they're just saying stay out of out thoughts. It's the left that opposes any worldview other than their own. Seriously... do you not get that?

        February 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
        • Dyslexic doG

          ahhhhh, no. sorry. you're wrong.

          February 25, 2014 at 3:34 pm |
        • Akira

          So you don't think that first granting them a booth and then denying them isn't an effort to control the GOP's narrative?

          February 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm |
        • SeaVik

          LOL! The delusion is very deep with this one. The right doesn't want to mold the rest of the country to adopt their views? That is RICH!

          February 25, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
        • Apple Bush

          "shifty"

          Good name for you.

          February 25, 2014 at 3:45 pm |
        • joey3467

          So very wrong. The left isn't forcing their views on anyone. Legalizing gay marriage doesn't force you to enter into a gay marriage. The only way they could force their views on you would be to force you into a gay marriage, which will never happen so don't be obtuse.

          February 25, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
        • commonsensed01

          Is the right forcing their beliefs on others? YES!
          * Wanting to remove the separation of church and state – as long as it is Christian.
          * Wanting to revoke Roe vs. Wade because right wing religo-nuts think it's a sin.
          * Wanting to force people to remain on life support against their own wishes.
          Shall I continue?

          February 25, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
  13. Heaven Sent

    The good Lord has seen fit to make the right decision regarding the satan worshipping atheists with itchy rears. God does not need them attacking His Truth. My camel-toe is a Democrat and it is uncomfortable down there. This is Jesus showing us the way.

    Amen.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      I can't work out if your are certifiably insane or just a very good troll ... ?

      February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
      • SeaVik

        I'm pretty sure the random sentences in the middle are meant to point out how idiotic the religious argument is.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
      • Løki

        verrückt

        February 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
      • Robert Brown

        I'm pretty sure this is the fake heaven sent. The real one has either changed names or quit the blog.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
      • Sungrazer

        The other day "Heaven Sent" replied to someone. Apple Bush replied to "Heaven Sent" to say, in effect, "Sorry, that comment was from Apple Bush." Draw your own conclusions.

        February 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
  14. theophileo

    Well, I suppose it was either remove them from the event, or they'll get overwhelmed with evangelicals preaching to them and some of the atheists might be converted.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:14 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Does vitriolic screaming and condemnation count as preaching?
      Because I'm pretty sure a lot of the supporters of Rick "Frothy Mix" Santorum would do just that.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
      • theophileo

        Of course not. I was thinking more along the lines of Todd Friel.

        February 25, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
    • Akira

      I highly doubt it would be preaching that the evangelicals would be doing.
      Not to mention it wasn't AAA that made the decision to deny them a booth.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
  15. Dyslexic doG

    "Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

    -Barry Goldwater

    February 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • pzanga

      "The Republican Party must be known as a progressive organization or it is sunk. I believe that so emphatically that I think that far from appeasing or reasoning with the dyed-in-the-wool reactionary fringe, we should completely ignore it."

      Dwight D. Eisenhower

      February 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm |
  16. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    In an earlier post I said "kudos" to CPAC.

    I guess I have to retract that now.

    So much for supporting religious freedoms.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      "Meghan Snyder, spokeswoman for CPAC, said American Atheists were included in the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

      Meghan Snyder, was later reported as saying "whoops, backsies".

      February 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm |
  17. James XCIX

    "He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs..."

    Nice spin, but he wasn't going to attack their beliefs, just the false connection between the beliefs and conservative Republican politics. Can't have people questioning what's they've been told for the last forty or so years, can we?

    February 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
  18. Akira

    Gee, color me shocked.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Dyslexic doG

    typical.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
  20. Lucifer's Evil Twin

    "Snyder confirmed to CNN on Monday that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

    Well, that is an obvious and just now confirmed lie.

    February 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Freedom of religion – as long as it is Christianity.
      Freedom of expression – as long as you agree with the party line.

      "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
      (as long as they're white, European Christians)"

      February 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
      • Dyslexic doG

        KKKPAC

        February 25, 2014 at 3:09 pm |
      • janemutiny

        ...with money."

        February 25, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
    • johnbiggscr

      Its like that bit from Blues Brothers when they asked what music they played at the club and they said 'oh we have both kinds...country and western', except in this case.......which religion do you guys allow freedom of?...oh we allow both kinds, evangelical and southern baptist.

      February 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
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