(RNS) Local officials in Florida this week rejected an atheist monument proposed for a courthouse lawn, another example of the hurdles religious minorities will face as they continue to press for equal access to displays on public lands.

Commissioners in Levy County, along the Gulf Coast of Florida, rejected an application filed by local atheists for the placement of a 1,500-pound granite bench adorned with quotes on the courthouse lawn in Bronson.

A Ten Commandments monument is already in place, erected by a local group with county approval. The proposed atheist monument is identical to one placed last year at another courthouse in Starke, Fla., after it, too, was initially rejected.

In this case, county commissioners rejected the monument because its engraved quotes — from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair, were “incomplete,” according to the commission’s report.

“None of the texts on the proposed monument appear to be a reproduction of the entire text of any document or person, as required in the (county) guidelines,” the report states.

Charles Ray Sparrow, a member of Williston Atheists, a group of about a dozen nonbelievers that applied for the monument in January, said such objections were not raised for the Ten Commandments monument.

“It is just an excuse,” he said. “We will not give up.”

Sparrow said his group, established a few months ago, has contacted the national office of American Atheists to help plan their next step.

Fred Moody, Levy County coordinator, did not respond to requests for comment.

David Silverman sits on the Atheist monument at the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla.

American Atheists President David Silverman sits on the Atheist monument at the Bradford County Courthouse in Starke, Fla.Photo courtesy of Dave Muscato via Flickr

 This image is available for web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

American Atheists erected the first monument to atheism on public land last June outside the Bradford County Courthouse, about 50 miles northeast of Bronson. The New Jersey-based organization has funding in place, raised from private donors, to erect additional monuments as their applications are approved.

Since the erection of the Bradford County monument, other religious minorities have sought monuments attesting to their beliefs on public land. In December, a group of Oklahoma Satanists proposed a statue of a horned god on the state capitol grounds, as did a group of Hindus, who proposed a statue of the monkey god Hanuman. Neither has been approved.

But American Atheists President David Silverman is optimistic about the eventual placement of an atheist monument in Levy County.

“It will be up to Levy County whether they want to go to court, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, lose, and get an atheist monument anyway,” he said.



  1. Lets see how many excuses people can come up with why religious freedom only seems to apply to well connected Protestants in this community.

    • If u don’t belong to the majority “god club”, u better not say it out loud. It’s not allowed in “our neck of the woods. If u don’t believe in god, u ain’t a “good, real Amerikkkan”. The bible belt, the middle east of Amerikka-and it’s shame. We r fed up and we won’t take it any more. Count on it
      Charles “Ray” Sparrow

    • If you’re an atheist, then what religious freedoms are you referring to? Religious freedom or the willingness not to be religious, is already protected in the 1st Amendment. It states that no official religion can be established. So, since atheists don’t believe in religion, they really don’t have a dog in the fight.

      The claim that atheists fight for religious freedom is a paradox

      • And yet, if only Christian beliefs are recognized, an official religion has been established, has it not?

        I also find it funny how Christians are constantly telling atheists that they are actually members of a religion, or are in fact Satanists, or some other similar nonsense. But when it comes to excluding atheistic viewpoints, well then, suddenly we’re in fact NOT religious, so we can be shut out.

      • “…atheists don’t believe in religion….”
        It is *god* that atheists do not believe in.

        “..not to be religious, is already protected ….”
        Displaying a atheist monument on the grounds of a government courthouse where an established mainstream religion has a monument is a pretty good example of “…Religious freedom or the willingness not to be religious, is already protected in the 1st Amendment.”

      • Yet a deliberately sectarian monument was erected on government grounds and there are none to any other faith. That is establishment of religion right there.

        Of course the easy way to remedy it without using jackhammers is by inclusion. Putting up monuments to other religious ideas as well. Show the community is one of inclusion.

      • we have freedom OF religion and freedom FROM religion. Govts are to remain neutral on religion. Has a Christian ever voluntarily removed something they KNEW was illegal, because they had empathy and knew was a violation?? I didn’t think so.

      • Atheism is not a religion, it is a ‘religious expression’.
        Atheism is the reaction to a claim the a God exists.

        If Christians have a right to religious expression with a symbol, then atheists, Aztecs, Muslims, and others also have a right to religious expression on the PUBLIC SQUARE.

        Better to keep religious expressions on your own lawn.
        Otherwise you invite this sort of thing.

  2. Ms Winston correctly represented Williston Atheists and our point of view and.we believe that we have a right to expect Freedom FROM Religion to be represented as was as the always accepted Freedom OF Religion. .

    We did not request that the Ten Commandments Monument on the courthouse Forum be removed – only that we be afforded the same level of respect and access as was the Christian community but, as expected, the Commissioners did not agree.

    The denial was couched in terms of “we did not properly fill out the application” and our supporting documents were not “FULLY shown on our monument.” Correct me if I am wrong but did not the Ten Commandments come from the bible and was that “document FULLY inscribed” on that monument?

    We have not tucked our tails and given in and there will be much more to come.

  3. “another example of the hurdles religious minorities will face as they continue to press for equal access to displays on public lands.”

    If you’re an atheist, then you can’t be a religious minority. Either you believe in religion or you don’t! You people are just sooo sad that you’ve been brainwashed to this extent

      • I am still waiting for the excuses for those.

        In OK, instead of saying what they want, which would be something truly sectarian and stupid, they just had a moratorium on all monuments except one.

    • Typical sectarian two-step:
      Its funny, when you want to denigrate atheists you say their beliefs are just like a religion, so they shouldn’t be taken seriously. But if they demand the same level of respect from government as a religion, the same people suddenly say, they are not one.

      Its also telling that the same people denying atheists a place for displays also deny minority religions as well and erect deliberately sectarian ones for themselves. The 10 Commandments monument is based on the Protestant translations of them. It deliberately leaves out Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish interpretations.

    • govt is to remain neutral on religion, neither be for it or against it. we have freedom of conscience, of belief and also non-belief. we have freedom from religion as well.

  4. Keep up the fight! Freedom of religion means that you are free to practice your religion, or if you so choose, not to practice religion at all!

    in Finland we have already won this right from “the godly” and I am sure that my fellow atheists in the States will also prevail!!

  5. I appreciate articles like this that point out the dominance religionists proudly wield, but one point-of-order — atheists are not members of a religious minority. By definition, we are areligious. Inclding atheism w/ religion is buying into religionists’ attempts to battle non-believers.


      Though Atheism is not a religion it is a ‘religious expression’. Atheism is the rebuttal of a God claim.

      If a Crucifix is an allowable symbol of a religious expression, so is an Atheist symbol.

      We do not play into the hands of the religious by challenging their claims.
      Their God claims belong on their OWN lawns – Not the PUBLIC lawn that belongs JUST AS MUCH to the local Atheist.

      Yes, religion is anti-democratic too. Another reason I happen to hate it.

      • even jesus taught to not be arrogant with your beliefs/prayers. pray in private, in the hall or closet. not on a lawn that also belongs to Hindu’s, Jews, Sikhs, Muslims, and atheists. But if someone just doesnt care about the beliefs of 40% of the country, then you’ll just plant your crosses and statues all over. Just dont care, is the operative words.

        • For the record:
          Jesus said both…

          (Matthew 6:5-6) says Jesus condemned public prayer.
          But Paul, in (1 Timothy 2:8) encouraged public prayer.

          In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to pray in Public.
          In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said to pray ONLY in PRIVATE.

          Yes. Jesus said both things in the same sermon!
          So… go figure.

  6. Christianity is not a religion, it’s a good way of life.. Belief in the truth and love in humanity and all things under the heavens. Treating people, as well as animals ect., with love, kindness, support and wisdom is not a religion. It seems so many people have again, taken it out of it’s perspective intent. The Ten Commandments represent the basics of life and how one should live and behave, because it’s the right thing to do.. It is a guidance of life for all to adhere to..

    • ANN,
      Since Christianity is not a religion let’s start taxing the churches since ‘tax-exempt’ is no longer applicable.
      Thanks for helping me rid the world of religion.

    • The Ten Commandments are “the basics of life”?

      What is it about eliminating “graven images” that is basic to life? The commandments themselves are a graven image!
      And if you cannot distinguish what makes your God different from Allah or Vishnu, how can you ‘love’ it? And if millions of people get by perfectly fine without ‘loving God’ how can you say it is a ‘basic of life’?

      The Ten Commandments are just over-rated nonsense.

    • Are you done bearing false witness?

      Of course Christianity is a religion. Its the only excuse they get for making irrational and sectarian arguments for a given position. If it wasn’t, the nonsense they foist in the political sphere would be much easier to dismiss. :)

      Too much of the strife in the world today is because of people following the 1st Commandment, “thou shall have no other Gods but me”.

      Only 3 of the commandments have any application to rule of law a free democratic society. The same 3 rules which are common to all civilizations.

      Of course you are also probably tone deaf to the fact that the interpretations used for the 10 commandments monument are the Protestant version, making it sectarian in its presentation. Privilege tends to blind people to the fact that there are differences of opinion even within their own faith.

      Treating people, as well as animals ect., with love, kindness, support and wisdom is not a religion. Too bad few adherents to Christianity actually follow such rules. Many spend most of their time looking for excuses not to do such things. The theological contortions they perform to weasel out of “love thy neighbor” would make Plastic Man jealous.