A California-based atheist group known for its anti-Christian advertising campaigns and events is to host a press conference Friday, under its newest “Treaty of Tripoli” billboard in Costa Mesa, Calif.
The group, called the Backyard Skeptics, has been sparking controversy locally and nationwide by putting up roadside billboards questioning God's existence, as well staging controversial events like ripping up Bible pages or distributing flyers encouraging recipients to doubt the Scriptures.
The new 48x14-foot billboard raised above 1526 Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa Tuesday reads: “America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The atheist group announced they will hold a press conference there Friday, at 4:00 p.m. local time.
This newest billboard, as well as the Friday event, are related to the Treaty of Tripoli, a document believed to be contradicting the United States’ Christian rooting, because of a religion clause it contains.
“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries,” reads Article 11 of the treaty signed by the United States and Tripolitania (in modern day Libya) in 1796.
The issue is part of a complex and ongoing debate about whether the founding fathers meant for the United States to be lead by Christian politicians, or whether Church and State should not interact.
As far as the treaty article goes, some historians, like Frank Lambert, Professor of History at Purdue University, claim that the article was “intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced.”
“Many Christians believe that our nation was [built] upon Christian [tenets]. It is not,” Bruce Gleason, the founder and director of Backyard Skeptics, said in a press release emailed to The Christian Post. “This billboard shows that the authors of our Constitution did not consider Christianity when drawing up America’s first documents of law.”
Gleason feels that the separation of Church and State is a “fundamental” concept embedded in the American Constitution. Backyard Skeptics is described as “a way for those non-believers to share the idea that one can be good – and often better without a belief in God.”
“Backyard Skeptics is a place where humanists, rational thinkers, atheists and agnostics have a place to explore the world without religious dogma. We strive to bring awareness and acceptance to the non-theist community,” reads a statement on the group's website.
The group, founded in 2008, has been fighting to convince the public that the United States is a country not grounded on Christian principles. One of its previous billboards attempted to convince observers to “Make this a better world. Reject all religious superstitions.”
In its recent attempt to question the notion of the United States' Christian foundation, the group committed an embarrassing faux-pas when it erroneously attributed an anti-Christian quote to Thomas Jefferson.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Catholic league spokesperson told CP Thursday that the group is historically wrong.
“It is understood that this nation was founded in the late 18th century under the Judeo-Christian ethos,” Jeffrey Field, Catholic League director of communications, told CP. “Indeed in 1892, a century later, the U.S. Supreme Court stated that we are a Christian nation.”
Field insisted that Backyard Skeptics' erection of this billboard during the holiday season shows that its members are “not interested in educating the public, rather it was done with malicious intent.”