From interfaith efforts in support of Islam to “I am Mormon” billboards, it’s become common for religious organizations to buy public ads to promote their faiths and causes. But a national atheist organization is taking it a step further, using Monday’s presidential debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., to launch a week-long attack on the faith of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The mobile billboard ad, which will be propped up on a truck that will circle the university during the debate, is sponsored by American Atheists, the nation’s oldest atheist organization. “Shame on Mormonism,” the ad says. “No blacks allowed (Until 1978). No gays allowed.”
The sign references the church’s former ban on black members in the lay priesthood, its policy that gay members should remain celibate and its high-profile promotion and funding of anti-same sex marriage efforts.
From 1977 to 1994, Romney served in several positions in the lay leadership of the church while living in Massachusetts, the highest being a stake president, akin to the leader of a Catholic diocese. Romney has spoken less extensively about his faith during this presidential run than during his failed primary bid four years ago, but has never said his church would have any control over his performance as a president.
“If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest,” Romney said when similar accusations were made about his religion during his field primary bid four years ago. On black priests, Romney said in 2008 that he was “anxious to see a change in my church” and cried with joy when the church lifted its ban. More recently, when a man at an April campaign event asked if Romney thought it was “a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black,” Romney replied with an emphatic “no.”