Florida members of the national advocacy group American Atheists are planning at the end of the month to unveil a large public monument outside the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, across from a controversial display of the Ten Commandments. The monument is the result of a lawsuit American Atheists brought against Bradford County over the Ten Commandments display, which the organization successfully argued constituted a public endorsement of religion.
“We’d rather there be no monuments at all,” said Ken Loukinen, the monument’s designer and the regional director of American Atheists. “But if they are allowed to have the Ten Commandments, we will have our own.”
Once standing, the 1,500-pound granite display is expected to be the first public monument dedicated to atheism in the United States.
The Huffington Post:
The new structure will feature quotes related to secularism from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair on a 4-foot-high panel, alongside a bench. It will stand in a small square in front of the courthouse, opposite the 5-foot, 6-ton Ten Commandments monument sponsored by a Christian group.
The dueling monuments in Starke are part a growing number of conflicts about public displays of religion. In February, a district judge dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and ruled that another Ten Commandments display in front of a courthouse in northwestern Florida’s Dixie County could stay put. Controversies have also erupted this year over Ten Commandments displays in public schools in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
American Atheists sued Bradford County last July, saying the Christian monument in front of the county courthouse was a public endorsement of religion. In response, the county asked Community Men’s Fellowship, the organization that sponsored the display, to take it down. But the fellowship replied by saying it had “prayerfully considered” the request and would not comply. The county and American Atheists went to a court-ordered mediation in March and settled upon the atheists getting their own monument.