American Atheists suit against Ten Commandments monument advances

Print More


(RNS) A lawsuit brought by American Atheists seeking the erection of an “atheist monument” near a Ten Commandments display at a Florida county courthouse has gotten the go-ahead from a federal court judge.

American Atheists, a national advocacy organization based in Cranford, N.J., has tried to put a granite, benchlike monument engraved with quotes from famous atheists at the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson, Fla., since 2014. The bench, which features quotes by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, was rejected by Levy County officials on the grounds that none of the quotes were “complete texts.”

American Atheists filed a lawsuit to win placement of the monument on the grounds that the Ten Commandments monument is also not a “complete” text because it does not bear the entire Bible, just the verses from Exodus that contain the Ten Commandments.

The group has successfully challenged Ten Commandment monuments, plaques and markers on public land before. It argues that Ten Commandments markers on public land, such as courthouse lawns, violate the Constitution’s protection against the establishment of a religion. Not allowing the organization to place its own monument nearby denies American Atheists equal protection under the law, the group says.

Judge Mark E. Walker agreed Wednesday (Jan. 27), denying the county’s attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed.

American Atheists erected the first monument to atheism on public land in June 2013 outside the Bradford County Courthouse, about 50 miles northeast of Bronson.

(Kimberly Winston is a national correspondent for RNS)

  • Anton

    The title is misleading. As I understand it, this is a suit for the right to erect an Atheist monument not a suit to take down Christian one.

  • G Key

    Although the lawsuit highlights the illegal disparity in which Levy County treats one spiritual/existential belief system vis-à-vis another, I wish both parties in this suit would focus on tending the monuments they have established in their hearts & minds rather than fight to erect and maintain metaphorical metaphysical billboards on public land.

  • RandyW

    One side started it with an illegal monument. The other side simply wants equal treatment under the law.

  • Brian Westley

    “American Atheists has successfully challenged Ten Commandment monuments, plagues and markers on public land before.”

    I’m pretty sure they aren’t epidemiologists, and have challenged plaques.

  • American Atheists is a wonderful organization. I love everything they do.
    May the Constitution win. May religion fade away.

  • pete

    amen to that brother

  • Pingback: American Atheists suit against Ten Commandments monument advances - IKTHUS.NETIKTHUS.NET()

  • Garson Abuita

    I’d mention that the Ten Commandments are re-stated in Deuteronomy as well, but I like to cut people some slack.

  • Pingback: American Atheists suit against Ten Commandments monument advances | The Muslim Times()

  • Hi, Anton. I take your point. But this suit — and others like it — really stems from the fact that American Atheists (and Freedom from Religion Foundation, among others) really wants 10 Commandment monuments removed. But as their various legal actions seeking that have failed, they moved to “plan B” about three years ago – having their own monuments placed beside them. It really is a move to neutralize the 10 Commandments monuments (many of which were erected as publicity stunt to promote the 1950s Hollywood film “The Ten Commandments.”)

  • GAH! You are right! That’s what I get for writing it so fast! Thank you!

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    When an atheist cannot obtain an erection, how sad!

  • Darrell Fasching

    If Atheism is a religion, as I believe it is, then it is guaranteed the same freedoms as all other religions. The first sentence of Ammendment 1 of the Constitution, forbids the establishment of any one religion and guarntees the free expression of all religion. The display of the 10 commandments is not unconstitutional but forbidding the right of other religions to similar displays would be the equivalent of the establishment of one. So I say, go Atheists, confess your faith and insist on your legal right to display it. You may find my essay in the final chapter of World Religions Today (Oxford) on atheism and world religions of interest.

  • Ben in oakland

    I won’t find it interesting if you are going to insist that atheism is a religion. It is simply a lack of belief in your mythology. you MIGHT have a point if you were talking about anti-theists, but you’re not. There is a world of difference between “I believe there is no God.” And “I have no belief there is a god.” no thoughtful atheist would make the first statement.

    I also don’t believe in Zeus, Horus, Wotan, Santa Claus, pookahs, leprechauns, and the tooth fairy. The only difference between an atheist and a true believer is that the atheist believes in one less religion than the true believer does. and if you truly understood why you reject all of the other religious stories out there, you would understand why I reject yours as well.

  • Erik Viker

    I lived in that county for 13 years back in the 80s and 90s. I am not surprised that some of the people in power there still want to use taxpayer-funded resources to push their religious beliefs onto all citizens. Shame on the current county leaders for taking such a hostile and un-American position.

  • Thomas Ryscavage

    One thing that is always overlooked is that Atheism is a religion. They have meetings. They have books. There are national offices and most of all there is a God because the Atheist feels he or she is God. Legally we allow this one religion to interfere with other religions. Reverse the table. Could you do the same?

  • The Fraternal Order of Eagles Ten Commandments program preceded Cecil B. DeMille’s movie The Ten Commandments (1956) with the printing paper copies in the early 1950’s. The program — which included more than 180 granite monuments mostly on public property such as courthouses, city halls and parks — was meant to teach Christian rules of behavior to American youths and adults who had succumbed to materialism and Atheism after World War II. I have located 160 of the Eagles monuments. Check my website at www. and help me locate the other 20. Pictures welcomed.

  • Thomas, Atheism is not a religion (altho the Supreme Court treats it as one for purposes of protection under the First Amendment). Atheism is simple — it is the nonbelief in a supreme being. One sentence tells it all. Not a book. Everything else is extra. Yes, books can be written about the beliefs of Atheists or the beliefs of Secular Humanists, but again, all that is additional to the simple definition of an Atheist — nonbelief in a god or gods.

  • Dave

    In David Silverman’s spirit of firebrand atheism have you considered erecting monuments with the Bible’s nastier verses eg murder your smart mouth kids, marry your rapist, keep the virgins for sex slaves & kill everyone else etc etc

  • G Key

    I’ve never cared for the passive, “lacking” connotation associated with the “nonbelief” description of atheism.

    I don’t passively, emptily, thoughtlessly have “no belief in God”.
    I have a consciously considered and explicit “belief in no God”.

    Of course, my beliefs are mine alone. I respect other people’s beliefs, just as I would have them respect my own.

  • patrick

    Knowledge is evidence based.
    Belief is ignorance based.
    Religious belief is a communicable form of mental illness.

  • patrick

    Thomas Ryscavage –
    ” ….the Atheist feels he or she is God. ”
    You are “correct” about atheists being Gods.
    Here’s proof from a member of American Atheists.

  • G Key

    Ouch! (Or Ace!, depending on your point of view…)

    You just dissed the faithful and an M.I. atheist in one swell poop.

  • samuel johnston

    How to discover the religion of atheism.
    1. start with theism
    2. remove all mythalogical content
    3. remove all promises and allegiances
    4. remove all speculative content
    5. remove all traditions and ceremonies
    6. retain all personal feelings and experiencies
    7. retain logic and evideince
    8. insist on respect for self and others’ quest for understanding
    9. take a skeptical view of all claims of authority not based consensual contracts with, and among, humans.

  • Harry

    In that case, you should be supporting efforts to remove Christian items from public property in support of the First Amendment. I think that’s the best way to resolve conflict and bring peace to an embattled world.

  • Darrell Fasching

    Bob, “one sentence tells it all.” Sounds like fundamentalism to me.

  • Pingback: American Atheists suit against Ten Commandments monument advances - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • I looked at this athiest thing and found that their numbers of membership in levy was extremely low.If everyone that wants a change in our county, the taxpayers are in for a time.The extensealism can ask for a suit for no statue at all and when they win, we can join it with the athiest and give them both what they want.I have been at a loss when they removed prayer from schools and when they tried to take God out of the Spangled Banner. The World is slipping away and why are we allowing those people, just a few to help it slip. God is a big part of all of our lives, well most all.Like the person that wanted a loan, the banker said, raise your right hand and swear to God that you will pay me.Well I guess most people that I know would get the loan.How about the fellow that cant swear to anything, how about his/her word?

  • Kirk

    And Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship. Furthermore, belief in evolution requires more faith than I have. It requires too much faith to believe in the atheist religion. Christianese 101.

  • Pingback: Christian News Weekly Recap Jan 25–30, 2016 - Zeteo 3:16()

  • Anthony Zarrella

    Dave –

    1) The specifically disciplinary/legislative elements of Old Testament law are not binding on Christians, and some are not even binding on modern Jews (e.g. regarding specific punishments for specific offenses).

    2) The verses you refer to are widely misinterpreted.

    A) The penalty for an *adult* child giving *flagrant* disrespect to his parents was death – but we’re not talking about a kid giving back-talk, we’re talking more like a man reviling and disowning his parents.
    B) No woman was compelled to marry her rapist. The *rapist* was compelled to marry her *if* her father demanded it (and otherwise pay a fine). This was because a non-virgin was virtually unmarriagable in the culture of the time, so she needed either a husband or a substantial sum of money in order to make her way in the world. Also, it wasn’t always rape – the seducer of an unmarried woman was included as well, so it was a bit like a “shotgun wedding”

  • Frustrated

    So you want to violate other peoples 1st amendment rights; because your cause so much more important? This country was founded BY God fearing MEN who worshiped GOD! I understand you want something that physically tells people “see I whined long enough and my monument is now on PUBLIC property. I cost the tax payers money to do this! Yay for me/us!” Go buy a piece of ground and erect all the monuments you want! Stop wasting tax money on this FOOLISHNESS!