Fla. County Rejects Atheist Group's Request for Bench Monument at Courthouse

A local atheist group in Levy County, Fla. has again been denied its request to erect an atheist bench next to the local courthouse's Ten Commandments monument and veterans' memorial. The group vows to keep trying to have its bench recognized, even though this is the second time its request has been rejected.

Ray Sparrow, organizer of the local Williston Atheist group in Levy County, Fla., told a local media outlet that his group's application to erect a public monument next to the county's courthouse was denied because it did not meet certain requirements for having a public monument. The Williston Atheist group's monument was meant to reflect a similar atheist monument installed at the Bradford County Courthouse in Florida that consists of a 1,500-pound bench and quotations on the separation of church and state.

Sparrow told WCJB-TV that his group's application was denied for a second time for the same reasons, with the county commission saying parts of the application did not fall in line with county guidelines. One of the guidelines the monument fails to meet is the requirement that it contain complete text to accompanying references.

"[…] one of the main things is that the monument we wanted placed here did not have complete text to references that we made, but if you'll notice the Ten Commandments monument they have here is not complete in its text," Sparrow told the local media outlet.

As WCJB-TV points out, the county's attorney argues that the Ten Commandments monument does not need to have the whole Bible printed on it because the Supreme Court has already determined the Ten Commandments to be a secular document.

Sparrow and his group's first request for an atheist bench was denied in February, and at the time the group leader told GTN-News that his group wants to be represented in a public forum, just as religious groups are. "The majority of citizens in the community are deeply religious – I understand that, but there are also citizens of this community who are not religious. They choose to be represented in a public forum that is available to all citizens so we choose to be represented too."

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