(Graphic Courtesy American Atheists)
A courthouse in Florida will soon be the site of what is hailed as the first atheist monument to be found on government property in the United States.
Bradford County Courthouse, which already has a Decalogue display just outside of its building, will have a large granite bench placed by the national organization the American Atheists in late June. Dave Muscato, public relations director for American Atheists, told The Christian Post that the atheist monument was part of a settlement made with Bradford County over having a Ten Commandments display at its courthouse.
"Bradford County agreed to a settlement with us, allowing us to place our own monument adjacent to the Ten Commandments monument instead of removing the latter," said Muscato.
"While separation of religion and government is always our primary motivation, equal access in this case works for us. We are thrilled to place what we believe to be the first ever atheist-sponsored monument on government property in the history of the United States."
Muscato also told CP about the details of the monument bench, which will be placed outside and in front of the courthouse alongside the previously existing Decalogue display. "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."
Last year, the secular group sued Bradford County over placing a Ten Commandments display near its courthouse on public property known as the Free Speech Forum.
The Decalogue, a six-ton granite monument, had been placed at the Forum by a local Christian organization called the Community Men's Fellowship. The large Ten Commandments display was erected at no cost to the County.
In March, American Atheists, Community Men's Fellowship, and Bradford County agreed to a settlement in which the secular group would erect its own monument.
William E. Sexton, counsel for the Board of County Commissioners of Bradford County, told CP that the atheist monument will not be paid for by tax dollars. "Pursuant to this settlement agreement, American Atheists, Inc. submitted an application to place a monument in the Free Speech Forum," said Sexton. "Their application complied with the requirements of Bradford County's Monument Placement Guidelines and was granted."
Sexton also stressed that neither the Decalogue nor the American Atheist monument are located within the courthouse, but rather in an area outside known as the Free Speech Forum.
Established in October 2011, the Free Speech Forum was created "so as to allow private groups to place monuments there," explained Sexton.