Atheists erect monument near Ten Commandments at Florida courthouse

June 29, 2013 at 11:17 PM

STARKE, Fla., June 29 (UPI) -- Atheists got their own monument Saturday -- a quotations-engraved bench -- next to the Ten Commandments outside the Bradford County Courthouse, in Starke, Fla.

The atheists say the bench, with quotes from the country's founding fathers and a noted atheist, along with the penalties for b breaking the commandments listed nearby, is the first of many they want to see installed across the United States.

American Atheists President David Silverman said the group's goal is to place monuments next to every public religious display in the country, The Florida Times-Union reported. They have the money for 50 now, he said.

"American Atheists will work ... to ensure truth is placed next to the lies, civility next to barbarism," he said.

The monument came about through a settlement of a federal lawsuit the atheists group brought against the county seeking the removal of the Ten Commandments.

Hundreds of people showed up for the unveiling despite a light rain, the newspaper said. The gathering of atheists was countered by about a dozen people who held "Honk for Jesus" signs across the street and broadcast gospel music from a pickup truck. Also on hand was a secessionist group, Florida League of the South, whose members waved Confederate flags and posted signs declaring America is a Christian nation.

Bradford County Commissioner Danny Riddick opened the ceremony extolling the virtues of freedom of speech and the free speech zone created at the courthouse.

"This is what makes America the greatest nation on Earth," Riddick said.

EllenBeth Wachs, founder of Atheists and Humanists of Florida, told the crowd the monument will be a great reminder of the importance of free speech.

"One look at this historic bench, and atheists will never again be ignored in this public square," she said.

Ro Reddick of Jacksonville said atheists are now free to be themselves.

"It's a heralding event that allows atheists to come out," she said. "We don't have to be in the closet."

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