- (Photo Courtesy Community Men's Fellowship)
A member of a Christian organization that posted a Decalogue outside a Florida courthouse said an atheist group posting a monument in the same location has the right to do so.
American Atheists will soon be posting what is believed to be the United States' first atheist monument on public property outside of the Bradford County Courthouse later this month.
Ken Weaver, member of the Starke, Fla.-based group Community Men's Fellowship, told The Christian Post about how he feels regarding the atheist monument bench.
"Simply put, while we do not agree with the 'faith' of the American Atheists that disregards the existence of God, we do believe in their right to freely express their beliefs," said Weaver. "As long as their display meets the requirements of our county ordinance, they have the same freedoms of expression as those of any other citizen or group."
In October 2011, Bradford County established a "Free Speech Forum" outside of its courthouse so that various private groups could place monuments at their own expense.
Community Men's Fellowship posted a six-ton granite monument of the Ten Commandments at the Forum sans any aid from the county government, financial or otherwise.
Weaver of CMF told CP that the large Decalogue was placed at the forum because of its historical and religious significance.
"It is our belief that the teachings of the Bible, both Old Testament and New, and including the Ten Commandments were without dispute, instrumental in establishing the foundational laws, principles and values of our nation," said Weaver.
"The placing of the monument as a part of the display of historically significant expressions in our courthouse mall, was an significant expression of our faith and our pride in and gratefulness for our nation."
Last year, Americans Atheists sued Bradford County over the display, arguing that it was an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion.
In late March, CMF, AA, and Bradford County reached a settlement in which the secular group could erect their own monument, which would be at their expense and in accordance with the monument guidelines.
In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, American Atheists Public Relations Director Dave Muscato described the planned monument.
"The monument is a 1,500-pound granite bench with quotes from Madalyn Murray O'Hair, an excerpt from the Treaty of Tripoli signed by President John Adams, and quotes from founders Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson," said Muscato.
"It also includes a 10-point list that parallels the Ten Commandments monument, specifying the Biblical punishment prescribed for violating each commandment, with Biblical citations. Several of the punishments are simply execution."
When asked by CP how he responded to CMF's display being seen as unconstitutional, Weaver responded that the Decalogue was protected by the freedom of speech and religion.
"Our Constitution guarantees both the freedom from a government imposed faith (the Establishment Clause) and the freedom to express individual faith without prohibition (the Free Exercise Clause). In addition we also have the freedom of speech," said Weaver.
"In recent years many groups have attempted to delete the freedom of expression and speech from our society without considering the entirety of the intentions of the amendment(s) to our Constitution. This monument is simply an expression of our freedoms to both speak and express our faith."