Bogus Billboards: Florida Council Peddles Religious Right Propaganda

Lies, lies and more lies.

That's what Floridians will see as they drive through Pinellas and Hillsborough counties near Tampa Bay, Fla., during the next six months.

A local fundamentalist group has decided to wage war on church-state separation by posting ten billboard advertisements that send the message that "America's government was made only for people who are moral and religious."

The billboards highlight quotes from our Founding Fathers that are misleading, false or taken out of context.

For example, one of the messages attributes this quote to George Washington: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

We know Washington never said that. Even Wallbuilders' David Barton, a Religious Right propagandist who for years has pushed a fundamentalist "Christian nation" view of American history, admits that
quote can't be documented.

In 1996, after years of using similar quotes from our Founding Fathers, Barton issued a list of 12 quotations he admitted were "questionable," and advised his followers to stop using them.

This Washington quote is one of them.

It's clear the truth seems to be lost on Community Issues Council (CIC), the group behind these billboards. CIC seeks to "promote and protect Judeo-Christian values" and first came onto the scene in 2005 when its members worked to shut down a strip club in Valrico, Fla.

A retired businessman, Gregg Smith, brought the idea of the billboards to the group's president and sole employee, Terry Kemple. Smith put up $50,000 to rent the billboard ad space and Kemple paid the bill for a new Web site, www.noseparation.org.

It would be one thing if CIC was somehow misled to believe these statements were true, or that they failed to do some thorough fact checking. But Kemple admits to knowing he is broadcasting complete lies.

"I don't believe there's a document in Washington's handwriting that has those words in that specific form," Kemple told the St. Petersburg Times. "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."

George Washington could have said those words?

I'm sure he could have said a lot of things, but it's irrelevant unless he actually said them. Besides, putting the statement in quotations implies he actually said them, not could have said them.

All this is not surprising. It just goes along with all of the other Religious Right propagandists who continue to push "Christian nation" nonsense, despite knowing the real truth.

What is interesting is how CIC aims to keep America for the "moral and religious," because last I checked liars don't fall in that category.