An atheist monument will soon become a fixture outside the Bradford County Courthouse
in north Florida, a region known for being staunchly Christian.
The atheist monument will consist of a 1,500-pound granite bench on which various secular quotes from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams among others will be engraved.
It will be situated on public land near an existing Ten Commandments monument that prompted a lawsuit after it was installed last year, The Associated Press reports.
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In addition to the secular quotes, it will also include a list of Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.
Will Sexton, an attorney representing Bradford County, stressed that the monument will be paid for and maintained by American Atheists.
Sexton said it was being allowed to be placed in a "free speech" area that the county established back in 2011. That's the site of a current monument that features the Ten Commandments.
"The atheists got something they could have had without having to go to the court," Sexton said.
American Atheists sued the county after that monument went up last year and demanded that it be removed. However, the Christian group that paid for the Ten Commandments monument filed its own lawsuit demanding that it remain in place.
Sexton said negotiations resulted in the deal letting the rival monument to be installed in late June.
Dave Muscato, public relations director for American Atheists, told The Gainesville Sun that if religious groups are allowed to have monuments "it's only appropriate that we have matching monuments.
Muscato said Wednesday that the monument in Starke, about 45 miles southwest of Jacksonville, is believed to be the first one dedicated to atheism to be placed on public land in the United States.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the creation of a second monument dedicated to atheism shows the "silly lengths" that Bradford County must go to justify allowing the Ten Commandments monument. The ACLU filed a lawsuit to remove a monument in Dixie County but dropped it earlier this year.
"It's apparently the price the Bradford County Commission has to pay to have its religious monument," Simon said.
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Sexton asserted that other groups could not put up purely religious monuments in the area near the courthouse.
According to county guidelines, any monument erected within the region must either commemorate the acts of a person or persons, an event, or have historical significance with regards to Florida or the United States.
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