Today marked the big unveiling of a public monument to atheism (a nonument?) in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in northern Florida.
And it came with a big twist.
In case you need a refresher, here’s the backstory:
In May of 2012, Community Men’s Fellowship (a Christian group) gave the city of Bradford County, Florida the “gift” of a $22,000 Ten Commandments monument to put outside the county courthouse:
At the time, American Atheists and plaintiff Daniel Cooney filed a lawsuit against the county. County officials were ready to take down the monument… but the Community Men’s Fellowship refused to remove it. In fact, God told them not to:
… Community Men’s Fellowship wrote back: “We have prayerfully considered your request and have determined that we will not comply with the County’s order.”
So they broke the law, but had no intention of fixing the situation.
So what could the city do? They could have hired people to lug that giant thing away (though I don’t know why they should’ve had to pay for that) or they could’ve sued the Christian group (again, who would pay for it?)… after weighing their options, and having a meeting with both sides, city officials decided to make the courthouse area a free-for-all. Anyone who wanted a monument would be allowed to have one.
Fine, said American Atheists. We’ll call your bluff and put up our own monument!
And with the help of a $6,000 grant from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, that’s what AA unveiled today — a 1,500-pound granite bench engraved with quotations from Thomas Jefferson, [AA founder] Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Benjamin Franklin, and others, as well as a list of the deadly consequence for breaking any of the Ten Commandments:
So here’s the new monument from blueprint to base to the big reveal:
Protesters are in attendance, too, with Confederate flag and “Christian Nation” signs (via Carl Hitchens):
A crowd forms for the unveiling:
… and apparently Creationist Eric Hovind jumped on the bench, possibly damaging it by breaking the seals:
***UPDATE: AA’s Amanda Knief says on Twitter that Hovind is not to blame:
— Amanda Knief (@mzdameanor) June 29, 2013
That’s confirmed by news sources as well.
The quotations on the monument include:
“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty banished, war eliminated.” — Madalyn Murray O’Hair
“… the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…” — Treaty of Tripoli
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” — Thomas Jefferson
“It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [writing the Constitution] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the inspiration of Heaven.” — John Adams
“When religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” — Benjamin Franklin
Immediately after the big reveal, AA President Dave Silverman announced that this was only the first of 50 similar monuments going up throughout the nation, wherever they are needed. According to an announcement from the organization:
We plan to work with local groups to install a total of FIFTY monuments on government properties nationwide in places where religious monuments currently stand. An anonymous donor is making this possible.
Remember: In an ideal world, atheist monuments like this one wouldn’t have to be here. It’s not like American Atheists was pushing to have it installed. It was only when the Courthouse granted special access to a Christian group that AA knew they couldn’t let them get away with it. Same with the rest of the nation.
If the Christians take down their monuments, the atheists will, too.
But until then, might as well make Christians feel *really* uncomfortable about the fact that their actions are paving the way for pro-atheist monuments to go up across the country.