Atheist Monument At Florida Courthouse Not First, Won’t Be Last

The new atheist monument at a Florida courthouse was unveiled Saturday as part of a practical settlement to end a lawsuit about the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds in Starke, Florida.

The American Atheists group originally sued to have the Ten Commandments monument removed on the grounds of separation of church and state. Instead, in a mediated settlement, they were offered the chance to erect their own monument.

You can see some of the speakers at the installation of the atheist monument at the Florida courthouse in the video I posted below. Be warned: these folks do speak at length.

The design of the monument is interesting, since it includes a bench so that it serves a useful purpose. American Atheists president David Silverman said: “When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function. Atheists are about the real and the physical, so we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench.”

A few reports have called it the first atheist monument in America. That isn’t really true.

It may be the first such monument on public grounds, simply because most places in America don’t allow religious monuments of any kind to be erected on public property.

However, individuals and groups are perfectly free to erect monuments elsewhere. For example, the Alabama Freethought Association dedicated an atheist monument on July 4, 1999.

That monument, called “Atheists in Foxholes,” was intended to dispel what they called the popular myth that there are no atheists in foxholes by celebrating the many atheists and freethinkers who have served in the US military in time of war.

You can see a photograph of the 1999 monument in the top photo.

Will there be others? It’s hard to say. But there is already renewed speculation about where the next atheist monument might go.

Starke, Florida opened the door by allowing one religious monument on courthouse grounds, the Ten Commandments. That’s what made them vulnerable to having other monuments being accepted there.

Some observers like blogger Hemant Mehta are now pointing to rural Baker, Louisiana, which also has a Ten Commandments monument on a public square called Veterans Plaza. Louisiana blogger Randall T. Hayes has checked it out, and the Christian monument is still there. His report is worth reading, and it contains many of his photos.

Hayes is not happy that the Baker Ten Commandments monument has such a prominent position in the town:

“The Baker Decalogue would be fine on a church lawn or on some other private property, but placing a sectarian religious monument so prominently in a city park that is supposed to honor veterans is an insult to all the U.S. military men and women who were not followers of that sect.”

The American Atheists group has said that they have a total of fifty atheists monuments that they’re seeking to install around the country. There’s no obvious reason why Baker couldn’t be next.

Here’s that video from an attendee of the installation of the new atheist monument at the Florida courthouse in Starke:

[Atheists in Foxholes monument photo credit: Marty Stone via photopin cc]