Billboards Fight Against The Separation of Church & State “Lie”

Hello, Ron Gold here:

The Community Issues Council, a Christian group opposed to the separation of Church and State, has gotten into the billboard business. They’ll soon have 10 up across Florida, including this one below:


There are a couple of problems with these billboards. Not only will it be tough to comprehend a long, complicated sentence when speeding down the highway, but also, some of them will have fictitious quotes. Even the group’s local chapter president, Terry Kemple, admits to this:

The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

Whether the quotes are made up or not don’t seem to matter to Kemple and billboard financier Gregg Smith, since, as they assert, they are doing God’s work:

More recently, Christian separation critics have scoffed at President Barack Obama’s assertion in April that Americans “do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.”

At the time, Kemple and Smith were beginning to plan for the billboards.

“I don’t think it’s coincidental,” Kemple said. “I think God had his hand in it.”

More information about the billboard campaign can be found on the propaganda site www.NoSeparation.org.

  • SarahH

    Ugh. This. This right here is what makes me feel kind of hopeless about America sometimes. It’s targeting people who are already predisposed to believe that Christianity is The Truth and that America is a “Christian country” and giving them a false idea that their beliefs are somehow supported by the founders of our country.

    We’d need about four times as many billboards, with accurate quotes from leaders like Adams and Jefferson and Paine to even neutralize the intellectual damage these billboards are going to cause. It’s giving me a headache just thinking about it.

  • http://princeofpithy.wordpress.com/ Prince of Pithy

    Is anyone really THAT surprised people like this will lie and make stuff up?

  • Siamang

    That reminds me of the famous quote by Jesus where he said “Listen to Siamang, he’s always right.”

  • weaves

    how do we make complaints to the billboard companies?

  • http://lunchboxsw.wordpress.com Aaron

    Fictious or not, the quote in the pictured billboard addresses “principle” not “religion”…

    People take their beliefs with them to Congress and to the Supreme Court, but that does not mean that we should legislate it. I think Washington was only trying to comment on the fact that we need morality in government, because without the principles of caring for others, etc that most religions teach governments will be nothing more than opressive.

    I don’t think that the people who support the removal of the separation of church and state have thought out their position…

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    I think we should consider putting up a billboard with a certain quote from the Treaty of Tripoli.

  • Thilina

    If reason and experience has taught us anything it’s that morality also doesn’t follow religion.

    I’d like to see the opposition to a billboard containing something like -

    “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” -Thomas Paine

    and if they put a billboard with a “quote” the person attributed didn’t actually say, isn’t that false advertising? I’ll leave that to the lawyers.

  • http://liberteegalitetrivialite.blogspot.com patrick

    What. The. Hell. They’re making up “quotes” and openly admitting to it? Like reality matters to these people. Ugh.

    I second Veritas’ idea.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Is their no “advertising standards authority” that can stop lies in advertising?

  • Kevin

    So, let’s take this to the next step for them. They have succeeded, and the Constitution has been amended to delete that pesky establishment clause. What now? We have to get some religion into the state! Which one? Mmmm,well… this is a democracy after all, so the denomination with the most adherents wins. The Catholic church will be immensely pleased. Or maybe an actual count will find that those with no affiliation win. Somehow, I do not think these wing-nuts would be satisfied.

  • Miko

    @Kevin: The U.S. isn’t really a democracy; once you get beyond the veneer, it’s an oligarchy. Those with money and power are pretty good at keeping it, since they’ve gotten a lot of practice at it. And based on what they’ve achieved so far, it’s pretty clear that the evangelicals would win the state-endorsed church fight.

  • http://wearesoulless.blog.com/ Soulless

    Churches need to be paying all their back taxes NOW. No more Free Rides for religions. They need to pay income and property taxes. And anyone who gives to religions should not be able to take it off their taxes.

  • ckitching

    Liars for Jesus… But it’s sad that they’re not even pretending to tell the truth anymore.

    Your country’s founders would be spinning in their graves. They go through all the work of specifically excluding religion from government, taking special care to give ample reason why they’re doing so, and these people decide to just make shit up instead.

    The idea that Jefferson would want the United States to be a Christian nation is particularly absurd. Didn’t he edit his own bible, removing all the miracles, and the divinity of Jesus?

  • http://logofveritas.blogspot.com Veritas

    Prime:

    The only way this would come down is if someone sued the company or the advertisers for libel – attributing quotes to someone that were never said. Unfortunately, General Washington is rather dead.

  • http://msatheists.org Oliver

    In Oxford, MS, we had a number of these billboards. I snapped pictures. Pretty much “liars for Jesus”.

    http://www.msatheists.org/2008/09/church-and-state-billboards-around.html

  • Justin jm

    Is anyone really THAT surprised people like this will lie and make stuff up?

    None of its surprising anymore. It doesn’t even surprise me anymore that people would lie so brazenly in order to lecture about morality; I’ve seen it a hundred times.

    But really, does it matter if the Founders thought that morality needed religion? If they did, then maybe they weren’t as smart as everybody gives them credit for.

  • Vhyrrimyr
  • «bønez_brigade»

    Breaking the 9th/8th/9th [P/C/H] Commandment for JC, for realz.

  • Jen

    Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing Terry Kemple for the quote, “Terry Kemple is a lying liar.”

    “I don’t believe there’s a document in my handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at my lying mouth, there’s no question I could have said those exact words.”

    BTW, Ter, if you start lying about Thomas Jefferson, I will hurt you. He was not a creationist either, Discovery Institute, and he was absolutely against the church and state mixing.

  • Stephan Goodwin

    Here’s a more complete quote as found on http://www.reason.com/news/show/35831.html

    “Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

    He’s saying that the uninformed and uneducated need religion to be moral. Basically, these people are claiming they (and us) are too stupid to not need gods.

    Quote mining. It always fails to impress.

  • Elroc

    Perhaps we need to make a bunch of billboards with fake Jesus quotes and see if thats ok too?

    “I am actually quite gay” – Jesus Christ

  • gribblethemunchkin

    Liars for christ – bearing false witness to push their religious views on others.

    Elroc, i think thats an excellent idea. Your quote in particular, admittedly christ never said it but his writings heavily imply it. Never married, travelled around with a bunch of guys, etc.

    How about
    “This is the greatest con of all time, but i’m getting tons of chicks and cash from it”
    Saint Paul

    “My genius has been caged by brainwashing in my youth”
    Thomas Aquinas

    “The church fully sanctions and endorses me torturing and killing the fuck out of people not like me”
    Torquemarda (this one is particuarly well supported)

  • Matto the Hun

    Nice preach that they are moral and that we need their religion surgical attached to the country in order to be moral… but lie about it.

    nice morals.

  • Gary

    “This is the greatest con of all time, but i’m getting tons of chicks and cash from it”
    Saint Paul

    Not Saint Paul — Joseph Smith.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Typical of “Liars for Jesus” that they care not one jot about the truth, but only their lying agenda or subjugating everyone to their will. Just as they cherry pick from their book, the bible, they cherry pick from history. I’m sure if someone famous, on three different occasions said “I”, and “like” and “christianity”, they’d join them all together in one quote. However, in this case they wait until they’re dead and just make up words for them to say. Disgusting!

  • Gary

    The idea that Jefferson would want the United States to be a Christian nation is particularly absurd. Didn’t he edit his own bible, removing all the miracles, and the divinity of Jesus?

    Yes, but the person being “quoted” here is not Jefferson, but Washington.

    “I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”

    I don’t really understand the need to put words in Washington’s mouth. Why not just cite his actual words from the Farewell Address?:

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle

    Not pithy enough for a billboard, perhaps?

    The Farewell Address was the work of Washington, with considerable assistance from Hamilton. I wonder who, in 1796, was trying to “subvert” religion and morality? Could it have been those godless, atheist French and their rascally domestic sympathizers, the Democratic-Republicans — like Jefferson and Madison?

    Liars for Jesus… But it’s sad that they’re not even pretending to tell the truth anymore.

    Lying for Jesus is as old as the Gospels. Some modern-day Christians are willing to put words in Washington’s mouth, and their early counterparts did the same with their Messiah. Consider, for example, the so-called “Great Commission,” quoted here from the end of the Gospel of Matthew:

    Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    We may be quite sure that these words were never spoken by Jesus of the Undead, and we have reason to doubt whether they, or anything like them, were ever uttered by Jesus while he was alive. Those words ain’t Jesus-ist, they’re Pauline….

  • Steven

    If someone is going to believe what they see on a billboard without any further supporting evidence I don’t see much hope for them anyway. I’m also a little bit amused by the veneration held for the “founding fathers” of America. They may have been remarkable people but they were also a product of their times and human beings as well. Just because something is old doesn’t make it right.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    They’re liars, and they also have no concept of marketing or design. I can’t believe how much money is wasted on religious billboards that are too wordy and are difficult to read, say, from a speeding car on a freeway.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I think they should use the quote from Revelations 22:22

    And the Lord Jesus Christ spake “What? I was kidding, come on. Dude! You didn’t think I was serious”

    Hey, if lying is OK…

  • Pingback: Bearing false witness on Christian billboards - Rant & Reason

  • Parrot132

    The site says “The quotes and the historical references on the pages of NoSeparation.org immediately disprove the ‘separation of church and state’ lie.”

    On the other hand, we have our Bill of Rights. Not only is separation of church and state included in the first of its ten amendments, it is the very first of the five separate provisions of that amendment, and therefore, perhaps the one that our Founding Fathers cared the most about.

  • http://www.sinasohn.net/notebooks/ Uncle Roger

    What should happen is that an atheist rents out the next billboard down the road and put up a sign that says “Washington didn’t say that. They’re lying. Check it out yourself.”

  • Pingback: Church Of The Smashing Orangey Bit Responds To Atheist & Christian Billboards - The Atheist Blogger

  • CatBallou

    Washington may have endorsed the value of religion, but that’s not the same as saying he was a Christian. I’m pretty sure that scholars disagree, or at least are unsure, on that point. He certainly didn’t want to favor one religion over another.
    But to Steven’s point about the veneration of our founding fathers, I agree that it’s completely out of place in some circumstances. When we’re discussing constitutional issues, it’s germane—otherwise, not necessarily.
    And Washington didn’t have a hand in drafting the Constitution, AFAIK.

  • Gary

    Washington may have endorsed the value of religion, but that’s not the same as saying he was a Christian. I’m pretty sure that scholars disagree, or at least are unsure, on that point.

    Some say Washington was a Christian, others say he was a deist. At least one says he was a “Christian deist” — not quite one, not quite the other, but somewhere in the middle.

    He certainly didn’t want to favor one religion over another.

    The question on the table, however, is whether he favored religion over irreligion. His Farewell Address certainly indicates that he did. Of course, favoring religion over irrelegion is certainly not incompatible with favoring the separation of church and state.

    And Washington didn’t have a hand in drafting the Constitution, AFAIK.

    Depends on what you mean by “have a hand in drafting the Constitution.” He chaired the convention that did the drafting. As chair, he did not participate directly in the drafting and debate process. Along with James Madison, he was one of the only two future presidents who actually signed the document.

    It’s not really relevant here, because the clause in the Constitution generally appealed to as mandating separation of church and state is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was not part of the Constitution as originally ratified. It was added slightly later, during Washington’s presidency. As president, Washington would have had no direct role in the adoption of the amendment.

  • Yoda

    Beware of anger. It will lead you to the dark side.

  • Sean Boyd

    I think the reason Xtians create such verbiose billboards is that they figure Jeebus will protect anyone reading it. It’s like a 5 second free pass from having to pay attention to other traffic on the freeway.


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