A Florida courthouse added an Atheist monument on June 29, right across from their monument of the Ten Commandments outside their building. Now both sides are calling it a victory.
The newly erected monument is a bench with an attached pillar that is etched with quotes from the perhaps one of the best known Atheists, Madalyn Murray O'Hair along with Biblical punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments.
According to The Record, the monument, created by the group American Atheists, is the first Atheist monument on government grounds.
Some Christians feel this a great opportunity to spread the gospel because of all the non-believers that may visit the new bench. However, other see it as an example of overdoing a "free speech zone."
"My advice to communities all over the country is, if you don't want to go through this kind of battle, keep it for its public purpose. Let people play Frisbee on it. Let people walk through it. We've gotten to a point where this has become clutter," said executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State Barry Lynn, reports The Record.
In 2011 the courthouse made the area in front a free speech zone so their Ten Commandments were not seen as controversial. However, The American Atheist sued for infringement of religious freedom. The courthouse then ordered the monument to be taken down, to which the Christian group refused and threatened to sue.
A federal judge was then called in to moderate a meeting between the county officials, the Christian group, and the Atheist group. The most unlikely of pairings came up with a situation that made both happy – erect a monument for both groups.
"Local politicians, probably throughout rural Florida in many places, that have been resistant to the whole notion of the separation of church and state are going to try to find any way they can to get around the requirement that government not be involved in the endorsement of religion," said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon reports The Record. "But I think they're going to trip over themselves if they do inept things like the placement of the free-speech zone in front of the county courthouse."
According to visitors of the courthouse, seeing the two large stone tablets is unavoidable and will serve as a witness regardless of who sees them or what faith they belong to.