The final Presidential debate takes place tomorrow night in Boca Raton, Florida and there will be a new billboard awaiting Mitt Romney and his entourage:
The billboard, put up by American Atheists, aims to educate the public about two of the lesser-known aspects of the Mormon faith: First, that black people were forbidden from entering the priesthood until 1978; second, that sexually-active gay people are still banned from the church altogether.
According to AA’s press release:
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.”
“We need to know if Mr. Romney supports these and other discriminatory actions of his church, for which he evangelized when it was still overtly racist, and to which he continues to donate millions of dollars. It’s a fair statement to say that all American citizens should be wary of a president who once proselytized, to Christians and Atheists alike, for a living,” Mr. Silverman said.
[Managing Director Amanda] Knief continued, “When President Kennedy was running for office, the American public demanded to know whether his first loyalty was to his Catholic church or his country, and he answered, in no uncertain terms, that he stood by this country and supported the separation of religion and government. All we are asking is that Mr. Romney address the same issue — as president, will he give his first priority to the U.S. Constitution or the Book of Mormon?”
Unlike their other billboards, this one will be featured on a mobile ad truck, which will drive around Lynn University (the site of the debate) tonight and then follow the Romney campaign on the road for the next few days.Romney was asked about the Mormon Ban on Blacks on Meet the Press back in late 2007. This is how he answered Tim Russert‘s questions at the time:
In short, Romney said he was happy the change happened (he “literally wept”), but refused to admit the Church was wrong up until that point. Way to be a leader.
When it comes to the exclusion of non-abstinent LGBT people from the church, Romney doesn’t appear to have any problem with it.
Considering how much criticism American Atheists received for their last set of political billboards, I’m curious how this one will be taken: As a legitimate attack on faith or as a petty attempt to grasp at straws in the last weeks before the election.
***Update***: A Mormon spokesperson has responded to the ad by… completely missing the point:
“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.”
“This group” absolutely knows that. The ad says, albeit in fine print, that American Atheists is referring to blacks in the priesthood and gay people who are sexually-active. American Atheists is right and the Mormon spokesperson is either purposely misleading the public or too ashamed to admit the truth.