An atheist group that put up billboards in Texas to highlight the religious conservatism of several prominent figures has been forced to explain why it misquoted a remark by former GOP Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin on U.S. laws and the Bible.
"We should create law based on the God of the Bible," reads a quote attributed to Palin in the American Atheists billboards put up in Dallas and Austin, Texas, with a call to "Go Godless Instead," beneath.
As CNN and several other sources pointed out, however, the quote from Palin is inaccurate and refers to an interview she did several years ago with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. The former Alaska governor said that America's founding fathers "would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments," as opposed to "we should."
The other conservatives featured in the billboard include Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, who was quoted as saying, "What they (homosexuals) do is filthy;" former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, saying, "Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God's law;" and another 2008 GOP presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, saying, "How can I trust you with power if you don't pray?"
American Atheists President David Silverman tried to explain that such remarks cannot be tolerated by secularists.
"We at American Atheists are shaming these leaders for their bigoted and backwards remarks and attitudes, and conveying a message to today's atheists that we need not take it anymore," Silverman wrote.
"Everyone should be allowed to profess their faith, of course, but that does not shield them from criticism," the AA president continued. "Everyone has the responsibility to lead moral lives, and 'It's my religion' is not an excuse for bigotry or immorality."
While Palin has not yet responded to the billboard, Virginia Davis, a spokeswoman for Santorum, said that AA might actually be helping spread publicity for the former Pennsylvania senator.
"At a time when many are trying to remove God from the public square, the senator is appreciative of someone helping him very publicly express his strong belief that we are one nation under God," Davis said.
As for misquoting Plain, Silverman linked to an article on Twitter by The Huffington Post that implies that the former Alaska governor believes American law should be based on the God of the Bible, but still does not provide evidence that Palin used those words.
"A Huffington Post headline is not the same as a Sarah Palin soundbyte," wrote Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist blog.
"We're supposed to be the truth-tellers, the ones who provide citations so you can double-check that we're being honest with you," Mehta added. "If an atheist group is misquoting someone – even if the intention was the same – it sheds doubt on the whole idea that atheists are the ones who are being honest with you."