Usually American Atheists files a lawsuit to have a religious symbol removed from government property. But in a historical first, the resolution of a 1st Amendment lawsuit will include the erection of a monument celebrating atheism on the lawn of a court house in Florida. If a public space is really going to be open to all points of view then the atheist monument should appear along side other monuments and symbols for the religions.
Following a settlement with Bradford County, Florida, American Atheists will unveil a new monument in front of the Bradford County Courthouse: a 1,500-pound granite bench engraved with quotations from Thomas Jefferson, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Benjamin Franklin, and others. The bench will sit adjacent to an existing monument featuring the Ten Commandments.
The unveiling is scheduled for June 29 at noon. It is the first atheist-sponsored monument on government property in the United States. American Atheists President David Silverman will deliver the dedication.
The monument features an excerpt from the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams, which declares “The United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion”; and excerpts from the Bible, quoting the biblical punishments for breaking each of the Ten Commandments–many command death.
American Atheists, along with plaintiff Daniel Cooney of Starke, filed suit in May 2012 for the removal of the Ten Commandments monument, citing separation of religion and government because the monument is on government land.
“We have maintained from the beginning that the Ten Commandments doesn’t belong on government property,” said Silverman. “There is no secular purpose for the monument whatsoever and it makes atheists feel like second-class citizens. But if keeping it there means we have the right to install our own monument, then installing our own is exactly what we’ll do.”
Of course the county didn’t “see the light” in making the court house lawn available for all points of view. They did it because they didn’t want to spend the money to remove the Ten Commandments monument:
At the time, American Atheists filed a lawsuit against the county. County officials were ready to take down the monument… but the Community Men’s Fellowship refused to remove it. In fact, God told them not to:
… Community Men’s Fellowship wrote back: “We have prayerfully considered your request and have determined that we will not comply with the County’s order.”
How’s that for brazenness? We broke the law, but we’re not going to fix the situation.
So what could the city do? They could have hired people to lug that giant thing away (though I don’t know why they should’ve had to pay for that) or they could’ve sued the Christian group (again, who would pay for it?)… after weighing their options, city officials decided to make the courthouse area a free-for-all. Anyone who wanted a monument would be allowed to have one.
I hope the atheist monument will be left alone as the Ten Commandments monument has been this whole time. I have my doubts and I will report any vandalism or damage the atheist monument might get after it is unveiled.
The point of church and state separation is government neutrality. A 10 Commandments monument does absolutely nothing to promote better government as well as not even being a good moral code. The only list that means anything to all people is the Bill of Rights.
I would prefer there be no religious monuments on the court house lawn but if they do say it is open to all points of view then an atheist monument should be there.