Florida Courthouse Gets Nation's First Monument to Atheism

Back in 2011, Bradford County up in north central Florida decided to allow a Ten Commandments monument outside its courthouse. A national atheist group thought the arrangement violated the separation of church and state and filed suit. Rather than spend thousands in court, the county offered the atheists a compromise: They could put up their own monument in the same area.

Surprisingly, the atheists agreed. And on Saturday, America's first public monument to non-belief was unveiled at the Bradford County Courthouse.

David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, dedicated the five foot long bench and pillar, each inscribed with quotes from secular thinkers like Benjamin Franklin.

"We don't want to establish this monument, we feel we need to establish it," Silverman told the crowd according to Time. "If [Christians] are going to have their religious statements made on public land, we're also going to have our statements made on public land whether they like it or not."

The display has already triggered intense debate, not just with Christian activists but also with other atheists who question the idea of a monument to non-belief -- especially one this confrontational with a list of quotes from the Bible prescribing draconian punishments including execution for breaking the Ten Commandments.

Either way, it didn't take long for anti-monument posts to start passing around Facebook this weekend:

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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