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Atheism Public Atheist Monument Going Up Near Courthouse In Starke, Florida, Is Country's First

Tejwant Singh

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Public Atheist Monument Going Up Near Courthouse In Starke, Florida, Is Country's First

Jaweed Kaleem Posted: 05/31/2013 5:43 pm EDT | Updated: 05/31/2013 6:25 pm EDT

A small city in heavily Christian northern Florida is about to become home to the first public monument in the United States dedicated to atheism.

Florida members of American Atheists, a national advocacy group, plan to erect a 1,500-pound granite display in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla., next month, opposite a controversial year-old display of the Ten Commandments outside the same courthouse.

"We'd rather there be no monuments at all, but if they are allowed to have the Ten Commandments, we will have our own," said Ken Loukinen, the director of regional operations for American Atheists who designed the monument.

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.

Will Sexton, an attorney who represented the county in the settlement, said it never intended to sponsor any religion with the Ten Commandments monument, nor is it endorsing secularism with the new atheist display.

"In October 2011, the county adopted a set of monument placement guidelines that created what we saw as a free speech forum in the courtyard," he said. Sexton explained that private groups can apply to place a monument in the space, and that signs on display indicate that any such works do not represent the position of the county.

The county's free speech forum guidelines say monuments must commemorate "people, events and ideas which played a significant role in the development, origins or foundations of United States of America or Florida law, or Bradford County," cannot be permanent and cannot be "libelous, pornographic or obscene." Sexton said the atheists' planned monument met the requirements.

"What the atheists agreed to is something they could have originally been approved for without a year of money and litigation," he added.

A representative of Community Men's Fellowship did not respond to phone calls from The Huffington Post, but the organization posted a statement on its Facebook page after the settlement was reached saying that "God worked this out."

"On the very first day we were informed of the lawsuit, [member] Dan spoke up and said he believed the Lord had given him a word on how to deal fight this thing. He was right. Praise God," the statement read. "We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free speech issue, so don't be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument. It's their right. As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord and that's what matters."

The Stiefel Freethought Foundation, a group led by millionaire atheist Todd Stiefel, funded the new atheist monument to the tune of $6,000. It will include a quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, a 1796 peace agreement between the U.S. and North African Muslims, which has become a rallying point for atheists because of its declaration that "the government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."

The display will also feature Biblical quotes that supporters say correspond to the Ten Commandments, such as Deuteronomy 13:10, which says to "stone him with stones" so "that he die" in reference to people who worship other gods. (The first commandment reads, "You shall have no other gods before me.")

Loukinen, the organization's regional operations director, said American Atheists resorted to putting up its own monument only after trying to get the Christian one removed, and the group has no plans to erect any more monuments in other cities or states.

There is at least one other atheist monument in the U.S., on private land in Lake Hypatia, Ala. It's dedicated to "atheists in foxholes" and was constructed in 1999 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/31/atheist-monument-starke-florida_n_3368319.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

PS: As Don King would say,"Only in America".
 

Rory

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Jul 2, 2012
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Seems like tat-for-tat, but at least American Atheists are fighting the power. Even if it is with the only petty weapon they were supplied by said power.
Oh well.. same thing, different day.
 

Tejwant Singh

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Seems like tat-for-tat, but at least American Atheists are fighting the power. Even if it is with the only petty weapon they were supplied by said power.
Oh well.. same thing, different day.

Rory,

Guru Fateh.

Can you please elaborate how fighting for equality be compared to tat for tat? And what petty weapon are you talking about?

Thanks and regards

Tejwant Singh
 

Inderjeet Kaur

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I think this is exactly the way the religion clause in the First Amendment is supposed to work.

Hmmm, maybe there could even be added an agnostic monument with Bertram Russell's famous quote about Sikhi on it. To whit:

:realangrymunda:If some lucky men survive the onslaught of the third world war of atomic and hydrogen bombs, then the Sikh religion will be the only means of guiding them. When asked, isn’t this religion capable of guiding mankind before the third world war? He said, ‘Yes it has the capability, but the Sikhs haven’t brought out in the broad daylight the splendid doctrines of this religion, which has come into existence for the benefit of the entire mankind. This is their greatest sin and the Sikhs cannot be freed of it.'
:kudifacepalm:

OK, I know that doesn't sound very agnostic, but Russell was famous for being agnostic and I think Mr. Sexton might agree that that's enough.:noticekudi:




:icecreamkudi:
 

Inderjeet Kaur

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I wonder if the atheists will gather round the monument and pray to their non God. After all, even atheists need a non God not to believe in lol

These people sound more religious than a lot of religious types!
I'm not sure if this is funny or poignant.
My youngest brother is an avowed atheist, hostile to any and all religions. He especially hates any public display of reigious faith.

A few years ago, he rather sheepishly told me that he had prayed for some miners trapped underground.

Well, I never! Anyway, I asked him who he was praying to. His response, "I don't know. Whoever was listening, I guess. Or maybe to no one."

It appears that we have a need to pray whether we believe in Deity or not.

BTW, the miners were rescued until the next time. In mining, there will always be a next time.
 
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Rory

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Jul 2, 2012
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Ireland
Rory,

Guru Fateh.

Can you please elaborate how fighting for equality be compared to tat for tat? And what petty weapon are you talking about?

Thanks and regards

Tejwant Singh
Sat sri Akal bhenji

As I see it, American Atheists have failed to achieve what they set out to do; to get the 10 Commandments monument removed. The gesture of putting up their own monument is all well and good but considering their initial goal, what does it achieve? Nothing. The Commandments monument stands the same as it did before, American Atheists have had no effect on this whatsoever.

As the county's attorney said, ""What the atheists agreed to is something they could have originally been approved for without a year of money and litigation".
So basically American Atheists lost the game and to me, the monument is their attempt to gain some publicity. They achieved nothing out of their dispute towards the county except realizing that they could not get the Commandments monument taken down.
As stated they were always entitled to their own monument, they didn't fight for this.
 

spnadmin

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rory ji

I agree with you. The proof of the pudding will only be when the 10 Commandments are removed. They have no business being there, and public sentiment is not the rule of the land.

The atheists goal has not shifted however. The monument is a creative, and I find droll, approach to getting "equal time." That has to be just a little bit of a goad to the opposition. If the commandments are removed, their monument will still stand, because it is on private land.

If atheists are patient, and things go their way, their message remains standing. The 10 Commandments go the way of the stone-mason's chisel. I am sure that counts for something in the worldly tug and pull of religious debate. Put simply, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; " This prohibition extends to all levels of government under federal statute and case law.

Speaking as "not an atheist" but as an observer of the world as it passes by.
 
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