A Hillsborough public policy group whose Christian platform included a push for a state ban on gay marriage has embraced a new attack on an old target: the separation of church and state.
Ten billboard advertisements against what activist Terry Kemple called the separation “lie” are being put up across Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Seven or eight of the billboard messages already are in place, and the rest will be by the end of this week, Kemple said.
For the next six months, they’ll be seen a million times a day, said retired businessman Gregg Smith, who rented the ad space for $50,000.
The message, as explained on www.noseparation.org, is that “America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious.”
“The Judeo-Christian foundation that the Founding Fathers established when America began is the reason that this country has prospered for 200-plus years,” said Kemple, president and sole employee of the local Community Issues Council, which paid for the Web site.
“The fact is, for the last 40 years, as anti-God activists have incrementally removed the recognition of God’s place in the establishment of our country, we have gone downhill.”
Smith, 73, who spends half of the year at his Tampa home, brought the idea to Kemple’s attention as a “separate ministry” needing local support. For now, the initiative is just educational, though both men left open the opportunity for future work.
“Has the thought occurred that this may be the beginning of something bigger? Of course,” Kemple said. “There is no next step.
“We’ll just see what God ordains.”
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.”
Kemple, who was considered last year for the Republican nomination to replace a state representative, is not alone in fighting what Thomas Jefferson wrote was “a wall of separation” built by the “whole American people.”
Former Secretary of State Katherine Harris, while campaigning for the Senate in 2006, called separation of church and state a “lie we have been told,” adding that “God is the one who chooses our rulers.”
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.”
Drew Harwell can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4170.
CORRECTION: Retired businessman Gregg Smith rented ad space for $50,000. Earlier versions of this story used in print and online incorrectly stated his role in the transaction.
I admit it, I am here for your children, liberties and certainly your faith, I want it all.
I gotta say, my favorite part of this editorial is it’s purely hypocritical nature and interesting choice of words.
“They are â€œfeeling a real need to convert people,â€ and preaching an â€œun-gospel.â€”
As opposed to Christian missionaries or those .. preaching the gospel?
“crusading across America to proclaim his atheism to newspaper”
Crusades..Â yeah, nice, equate Atheists with a bunch of religious nuts who went around slaughtering and raping those who didn’t believe in their favorite fictional character; sounds about right to me.
Weâ€™ve warned you about them before on our websiteâ€”but now theyâ€™re on a much more aggressive march all across America. No longer are they just staying in their classrooms or writing books and articles in the comfort of their offices. They are â€œthe new atheists,â€ and they are aggressively going after your children, your liberties, and your faith!
According to the print media and websites, the new atheists say â€œevangelism is a moral imperativeâ€ to spread their â€œgood newsâ€ in â€œpersuading people of the virtues of atheism.â€ They are â€œdrawing on evolution,â€ and are vocally â€œhostile to religions,â€ especially â€œfundamentalist Christianity and Islam.â€ They are â€œfeeling a real need to convert people,â€ and preaching an â€œun-gospel.â€ In one media report, it was stated that â€œat some point there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God.â€
One of the most outspoken of this new breed of atheists is the vehement anti-creationist Dr. Richard Dawkins of Oxford University in England; another is philosopher, Sam Harris. The Washington Post wrote a major article about Harris and stated: â€œHow exactly the faithful [Christians] will transition to a godless, Good Book-less cosmology is not exactly clear â€¦ but he is heartened by countries such as Sweden, where he claims 80% of the populace do not believe in God.â€
These atheists are not just publicity seekers. They are very serious about their mission. Dawkins, from England, was recently crusading across America to proclaim his atheism to newspapers, websites, and at public meetings.
Some people might say to me, â€œBut thereâ€™s no way Americans will go for atheism. Most people believe in God, even if they donâ€™t take the Bible seriously as AiG does.â€ Think back to the 1950s. What if someone back then said to you, â€œBeware, the homosexual movement is on the marchâ€”if we donâ€™t do something, â€˜gayâ€™ marriages will be legalized across the country.â€ Almost all of us at that time would have said that thereâ€™s no way Americans would ever accept this. Most people believe that marriage is one man for one woman, so, no, this will never happen in America.But as you know, it has happenedâ€”and continues to happen!
Interestingly, these new atheists liken their growing movement to that of the gay activists. One stated: â€œWeâ€™re in the same position the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people had the courage to come out. â€œThatâ€™s the case with atheists. They are more numerous than anybody realizes.â€
If you think this observation is an exaggeration, just consider the popularity of two recent books associated with these new atheists: The God Delusion by Dawkins and Letter to a Christian Nation by Harris. Both books bitterly attack Christianity. Dawkins is more than just angry, though. He has a purpose, says a reviewer: â€œthe whole book is meant to change peopleâ€™s minds.â€
The God Delusion was #8 on the New York Times bestseller list, #10 on Publishers Weekly, and #2 on the Amazon best-seller rankings in November 2006. At the same time, Letter was #6 on the Times list, and #8 in the Amazon rankings. Meanwhile, an increasing number of atheists are attacking our Christian faith in several major newspapers and websitesâ€”with their evolutionary beliefs often presented.
It prompts me to ask: â€œWhy are atheists now getting so much publicity and gaining ground? Whatâ€™s happened in the culture to allow this?â€ As weâ€™ve been saying for years, thereâ€™s been a change in this cultureâ€”at a foundation level. Generations have been indoctrinated by the secular education system and media to build their thinking on human reason, not the Word of God. And at the base of this is the creation/evolution issue.
Evolutionary indoctrination has produced generations (even in the church) who doubt the Bible. Barna Research discovered that of teenagers today who call themselves born-again Christians, only 9% believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. These young people are ripe for â€œsecular evangelistsâ€ like Dawkins and Harris.
It’s a presidential campaign like no other. The candidates have been falling all over each other in their rush to declare the depth and sincerity of their religious faith. The pundits have been just as eager to raise questions that seem obvious and important: Should we let religious beliefs influence the making of law and public policy? If so, in what way and to what extent? Those questions, however, assume that candidates bring the subject of faith into the political arena largely to justify — or turn up the heat under — their policy positions. In fact, faith talk often has little to do with candidates’ stands on the issues. There’s something else going on here.
Look at the TV ad that brought Mike Huckabee out of obscurity in Iowa, the one that identified him as a “Christian Leader” who proclaims: “Faith doesn’t just influence me. It really defines me.” That ad did indeed mention a couple of actual political issues — the usual suspects, abortion and gay marriage — but only in passing. Then Huckabee followed up with a red sweater-themed Christmas ad that actively encouraged voters to ignore the issues. We’re all tired of politics, the kindly pastor indicated. Let’s just drop all the policy stuff and talk about Christmas — and Christ.
Ads like his aren’t meant to argue policy. They aim to create an image — in this case, of a good Christian with a steady moral compass who sticks to his principles. At a deeper level, faith-talk ads work hard to turn the candidate — whatever candidate — into a bulwark of solidity, a symbol of certainty; their goal is to offer assurance that the basic rules for living remain fixed, objective truths, as true as religion.
In a time when the world seems like a shaky place — whether you have a child in Iraq, a mortgage you may not be able to meet, a pension threatening to head south, a job evaporating under you, a loved one battling drug or alcohol addiction, an ex who just came out as gay or born-again, or a president you just can’t trust — you may begin to wonder whether there is any moral order in the universe. Are the very foundations of society so shaky that they might not hold up for long? Words about faith — nearly any words — speak reassuringly to such fears, which haunt millions of Americans.