A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their nonbelief in God on Saturday to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Florida.

As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States.

American Atheists first sued to try to have the stone slab with the Ten Commandments taken away from the courthouse lawn in this rural, conservative north Florida town.  It had been erected by a community men’s fellowship group in what’s described as a free speech zone. During mediation on the case, the atheist group was told it could have its own monument, too.  So, the New Jersey based group decided that it was better to erect a monument of their own.

Many residents of the town and surrounding area are mostly offended by the simple fact that they consider the atheist group from New Jersey as outsiders and they feel that it is highly offensive in what is traditionally referred to as part of the “Bible Belt” in this part of the South.

About 200 people attended the unveiling.  Most were supportive, though there were protesters, including a group from the Florida League of the South that had signs that said “Yankees Go Home.”

After a cover was taken off the 1,500-pound granite bench Saturday, people rushed to have their pictures taken on it. The bench has quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists.  It also has a list of Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.

Most people who were in attendance during the unveiling believe that this is an example of free speech and should be allowed under our countries “freedom of religion.”

The group that sponsored the Ten Commandments monument, the Community Men’s Fellowship, made the following statement on their Facebook page, along with updates on the legal battle with the American Atheists and praised the compromise that allowed them to keep their monument.

“We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free-speech issue, so don’t be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument.  It’s their right.  As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord, and that’s what matters”.

Atheists should be seen as good people if they do good, Pope Francis said Wednesday in his latest urging that people of all religions — or no religion — work together.

The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics made his comments in the homily of his morning Mass in his residence, a daily event where he speaks without prepared comments.

Francis’s reaching out to atheists and people who belong to no religion is a marked contrast to the attitude of former Pope Benedict, who sometimes left non-Catholics feeling that he saw them as second-class believers.

While I agree, in principle, with “freedom of speech” and “freedom of religion;” I sometimes question why minorities and their beliefs seem to take center stage over the majority and their beliefs.  Rather than banning “prayer” in school, why did we not allow freedom of all religious beliefs to take place in our schools?  It is way pass time for the wheels of justice and the principles of this country to reflect our diversity, rather than banning everything because it conflicts with what somebody thinks.  Maybe, if there was more prayer in schools, there would be less bullying and violence and there would not be any occurrences like Newtown.

 

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