LEVY COUNTY, Fla. — Officials in a Florida county have denied an application to erect an atheist monument near a Ten Commandments display at the county courthouse.
The group Williston Atheists had submitted an application last month to Levy County officials to place the 1,500 pound granite bench on the grounds.
However, in considering the matter this week, the county said that the proposed monument contained quotes that were considered incomplete.
“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 guidelines,” the county’s report explained.
“The vote was unanimous to deny the application at this time and that was based on the fact that the application in the opinion of our board was not complete, it did not meet all of the guidelines,” County Coordinator Fred Moody reiterated to local television station WCJB.
The monument was to feature quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams and American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
Williston Atheists member Charles Ray Sparrow asserted that the commission’s reasoning was bias because the Ten Commandments monument had not been rejected for the same reason.
“It is just an excuse,” he said. “We will not give up.”
The bench was to be identical to a monument that was erected last year in Starke, Florida near another Ten Commandments display. As previously reported, the monument was part of a settlement between officials in Bradford County and the organization American Atheists of Cranford, New Jersey. American Atheists had sued the county in 2012 for permitting the display of the Ten Commandments on the premises, which was placed by a group known as Community Men’s Fellowship.
The county had asked the Fellowship to remove the Decalogue, but the men refused to do so. Therefore, instead of forcing the matter, it was agreed to allow American Atheists to erect their own display outside of the courthouse in the free speech area.
“We have maintained from the beginning that the Ten Commandments doesn’t belong on government property,” stated American Atheists President David Silverman in a press release. “There is no secular purpose for the monument whatsoever and it makes atheists feel like second-class citizens. But if keeping it there means we have the right to install our own monument, then installing our own is exactly what we’ll do.”
Sparrow told reporters this week that his group likewise desires equal representation at the Levy County courthouse.
“The majority of citizens in the community are deeply religious; I understand that. But there are also citizens of this community who are not religious,” he said. “They choose to be represented in a public forum that is available to all citizens so we choose to be represented too.”
Williston Atheists state that they will continue to urge the county to allow the monument to be erected.
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