(Photo: Atheists.org via The Christian Post)
Mormon Voices, a leading organization working to shed light on questions surrounding the LDS Church in the media, has blasted the nation's largest atheist organization, American Atheists, for releasing a new billboard campaign targeting the Church for its treatment of black and gay people.
"Despite a history of never having segregated congregations and numerous ordinations of black males to the priesthood from its earliest days until the 1950's, like virtually all other identifiable groups (including atheists), the LDS Church has not been perfect in its treatment of blacks," John Lynch, Managing Director of Mormon Voices, explained in an email to The Christian Post on Monday.
"MormonVoices condemns divisive political grandstanding, as is evidenced by these mobile billboards, which serve only to prevent progress in the Church's relationships with African Americans and members of the gay community," he added.
The mobile billboards in question, released by American Atheists on Monday, in Boca Raton, FL, not far from where the final presidential debate will be take place between President Barack Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney, state that black people were not accepted as church leaders until 1978, while currently no practicing gay people are allowed in its membership.
"Shame on Mormonism," the ad states, an image of which was shared with CP.
The secular organization explains the reason behind launching the campaign now is because it wants everyone to know what the implications are of having a Mormon president.
Mitt Romney, who is a member of the LDS Church, served as a Mormon missionary, and adheres to the main tenants of the faith, such as opposing abortion except for in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in danger.
Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists, said in a statement: "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," he added.
American Atheists has said that it is not endorsing or supporting Romney's rival, President Obama, but remain vigilant on whether the elected leader will impose his religious beliefs on the population.
In his email to CP, Lynch further pointed out that the atheist campaign was very much off-target, however, and highlighted that the black community is an integral part of the Mormon Church.
"The continent of Africa has a tremendous missionary program and is one of the fastest growth areas for the Church," Lynch continued. "Substantial humanitarian programs are sponsored by the Church and/or Church members that are intended to benefit black communities on a global basis, and members of all races serve in high and responsible positions in the Church, including as stake presidents, the highest ecclesiastical position held by Mitt Romney in Boston."
"Political opportunists who try to use issues of race relations now long behind us demonstrate their own bigotry against Mormons and should be denounced by all thoughtful and reasonable people. Perpetuating such false notions serve only to reinforce racial divides, and is itself a disservice to both Mormons and members of black communities."
As for gay people, Mormon Voices noted that the LDS Church, which supports the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman, has many self-identified gay members in good standing who serve in responsible positions in the Church.
"These same individuals support, in many instances, the Church's position on marriage issues," Lynch continued. "Issues of moral conduct are the same for gay and straight members alike in the LDS Church, and reinforce the LDS views on the role of family in the world."
Both President Obama and Republican candidate Romney have pledged that they will defend religious freedom if they are victorious at the Nov. 6 presidential elections. The Christian Post recently presented a report identifying both candidates' official positions on the issue.