By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com October 22 2012 4:42 PM ET
A mobile billboard sponsored by an atheist group attacks the Mormon Church for its discriminatory policies against African-Americans and LGBT people, but church officials say it’s misleading.
The billboard, traveling around southern Florida, reads, “No Blacks Allowed (Until 1978). “No Gays Allowed (Current). Shame on Mormonism.” It is sponsored by American Atheists.
Mitt Romney is campaigning in Florida today, ahead of tonight’s presidential debate in the state, but American Atheists president David Silverman told CNN the billboard is not directed specifically at him. However, Silverman added, “Nobody seems to be talking about the implications of having a very religious Mormon president. 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. … We all understand the implications of having a Christian president. We do not understand the implications of having a Mormon president.”
Church spokesman Dale Jones told CNN the sign is misleading. The church did not ordain blacks into the Mormon priesthood until 1978, but it did allow people of all races to be members of the church, he said. The denomination has attributed the change in ordination rules to a revelation received by its head at that time.
“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 wrote in an email to the network. The church does, though, call on gay members to be celibate, and it opposes same-sex marriage. (It also does not ordain women.)
Jones said the billboard campaign is motivated by American Atheists’ “personal politics.” Silverman said, “We are not taking a position on the election, we are taking a stance on ignorance.” A spokeswoman for Romney declined comment to CNN.