Today, American Atheists launched a mobile billboard campaign in Boca Raton, Florida near the site of the final presidential debate. The billboard points to Mormonism’s sketchy past on racial issues (Until 1978, African-American men were excluded from priesthood in the church; until at least the late 1960s, church leaders apparently found it acceptable to refer to African Americans as “darkies.”) and reminds viewers that the church is still virulently anti-gay.
Referring to Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot initiative that removed the right of same-sex couples to legally marry in California, Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists stated, “The American population is woefully unaware of the implications of a Mormon president because nobody is discussing the issue. Mormonism is a non-Abrahamic religion that has already used its money and might to impose its beliefs on the non-Mormon citizens of California.”
Religion writer Becky Garrison, who contributes to the Washington Post, American Atheist magazine, and numerous other publications, emailed Silverman seeking further information about the new campaign.
Becky Garrison: Why launch this campaign?
Dave Silverman: This campaign intends to highlight the fact that the American Public is unaware of the possible ramifications of a Mormon president. Important questions are not only being overlooked, but avoided in a misguided effort to be politically correct. One example is the fact that Mr. Romney recruited for this organization when it was overtly and proudly racist. Had Mr. Romney recruited for the KKK, or even some whites-only golf course, we would be asking about his commitment to diversity, and rightfully so. However, as the racist organization is a religion, nobody is asking, so nobody knows.
We are placing a billboard critical of Mormonism’s racist dogma and current anti-gay policies on a truck which will drive around the debate area all day, and follow the Romney bus as it leaves to its subsequent destinations. I will ride with the truck for its launch. Diversity is important. We are hopeful it will start a conversation as to where Mr. Romney draws the line between diversity and dogma, and we are all looking forward to hearing him address this subject before America casts its vote.
BG: Given the activist role of religion in this 2012 presidential campaign, why single out Mormonism?
DS: America knows the implications of a Christian President. Mormonism, on the other hand, is a non-Abrahamic polytheistic religion that achieves its growth via recruitment. They have used their might and money to push their moral tenets on the non-Mormon citizens of California already, and are proud of their success. their role in the Prop 8 Battle As president, Romney will be in the strongest position to allow the Mormon Church to do both on a larger scale. As a Mormon man, he is obliged to do so to the best of his ability, as a primary goal. Will Mormon creationism (God used to be a man living on another planet) be taught in schools? Will Joseph Smith soon be found in the History books? Will more federal funding be diverted to the Mormon church to provide social services without oversight?
We don’t know, because none of these important questions have ever been asked. When JFK was elected, America asked if he would ever say no to the Pope. We need to know if Mr. Romney would ever say no to the Mormon Church, for which he has recruited and to which he regularly donates millions of dollars.
BG: What do you hope to achieve with this campaign?
DS: Awareness of the fact that Mormonism has a very dark side, one of hate and proselytization, which needs to be discussed before we cast our vote. We are by no means suggesting that no Mormon could ever be a good president (nor do we endorse President Obama), but we do expect any president to respect the diversity on the American citizenry, and we think it’s important that we get Mr. Romney’s stance on these important issues, given his past activities recruiting for a racist organization and his continued commitment to one that is inherently anti-diversity.
BG: Why do you find Mormonism’s positions regarding LGBT folks shameful?
DS: We find their views on homosexuality shameful because it’s 2012. We find it shameful that any religion would cloak their hate and call it morality. As a supposedly modern and moral religion, one would think they would be more inclined to let their people live as they see fit, and not allow gay people in their ranks only if they totally suppress their homosexuality. Instead, they went the way of the Catholic Church, and have spent millions to sway voters to forbid not only Mormons, but also non-Mormons, from living their lives. There are real problems in this country that could be helped by the Mormon Church. How many hungry people could have been fed with the $20 Million they spent helping to defeat gay marriage in California?
BG: What was your reaction to Billy Graham’s sudden turn to the hard right by supporting North Carolina’s Amendment One and Chick-Fil-A followed his blessing to Mitt Romney and now an election ad in The Wall Street Journal that all but endorses Romney for his commitment to “traditional marriage?”
DS: I laughed when I learned that Graham had endorsed Romney. Any way you look at it, Graham’s endorsement of Romney is good for atheism. Billy Graham is a religious leader, not a political one, but he totally abandoned his faith’s primary tenet (there is one god) by endorsing a polytheist instead of a Christian. He went Republican, even though it meant endorsing a member of a cult (even going so far as removing the references to Mormonism being a cult on his web site). This is good for atheism because it highlighted Grahams hypocrisy while moving evangelistic Christianity in the direction of tolerance for cults (by their own definition). It shows that Graham cares about politics more than loyalty to his faith and tenets, and is eager to remain relevant in the political arena. In short, it highlighted the fact that Evangelistic Christianity is so desperate to remain relevant that it is willing to get in bed with its own enemies.