One of the more controversial moments heading into this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was the inclusion of an atheist group as a sponsor before that sponsorship was revoked.

Credit: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze

Credit: Eddie Scarry/TheBlaze

The group showed up anyway.

Outside the ballroom of the hotel, where major speeches are being delivered, stood David Silverman, president of American Atheists. He was passing out flyers, sporting a shirt with his organization’s name, decorated with a couple buttons.

Most CPAC attendees passed him by with a polite “no thank you” for the flyers. TheBlaze Blog stopped to ask why he showed up, despite essentially being told not to come.

Silverman, who was with a couple more members of his group, told us he did indeed feel unwelcome by CPAC organizers but that he has received a surprising amount of positive support from attendees. “We still wanted to spread the message,” he told us. That message, he said, is for conservatives to stop tying Christianity (“prayer in schools”) to other conservative principles (such as gun rights). He said doing that will broaden conservatism’s appeal.

“I thought I was walking into a hot bed of hate,” Silverman said. “But we’ve had people saying — even Christians — ‘thank you for being here.’”

He said he hopes that next year, CPAC organizers will be open to American Atheists as sponsors.

As our interview ended, a woman with a camera took a photo of Silverman. “Thanks for being here,” she said.

“See?” Silverman said to TheBlaze Blog. “That’s what we’re getting. She may not be an atheists but she appreciates us being here.”