First Atheist Monument on U.S. Government Property; 50 More Coming

A group of atheists has proudly installed the nation’s first public monument to a nonbelief in God allowed on U.S. government property.

The stone bench sits alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County courthouse in Starke, Florida and was unveiled on June 29.

Given the number of U.S. atheists, this move is not so surprising: a report from the Pew Research Center last year revealed that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today.

The two monuments are side-by-side because American Atheists sued to try to have the six-ton statue of the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse lawn in Starke, a small town in northern Florida. The Community Men’s Fellowship erected the monument in what is described as a free-speech zone. During mediation on the case, the atheist group was told that the Old Testament slab had to stay, but that it could have its own monument, too.

Separation Of Church And State

The United States was founded on the idea of separation of church and state, but many people still maintain that the country is a Christian nation, founded on Biblical principles. The fight between the two sides continues; most recently, in Georgia, a bill was passed last year allowing the Ten Commandments to be displayed in all Georgia government buildings, including schools.

So the battle is on, and American Atheists are not stopping at one. With the help of an anonymous donor who will foot the bill, the group has vowed to erect 50 more such monuments around the country on public sites where the Ten Commandments now stand alone.

There are in fact hundreds of Ten Commandments monuments and plaques across the U.S., many erected in the 1950s and ’60s by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a charitable group based in Grove City, Ohio.

What Does An Atheist Monument Look Like?

The 1,500-pound granite structure is a functional bench, with several messages engraved on it. These include a breakdown of the punishments for violations of each of the Ten Commandments, mostly death and stoning.

There are also other quotes, including these:

“‘… the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion …’ Article II, Treaty of Tripoli. The treaty as sent to the U.S. Senate, where it was read aloud in its entirety and approved unanimously. President John Adams signed it and proclaimed it to the nation on June 10, 1797.”

“When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it can not support itself and God does not take care to support, so that its professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of it’s being a bad one.” – Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Richard Price, October 1780

The Washington Post reports on how the citizens of Starke responded to the new monument:

About 200 people attended the unveiling. Most were supportive, although there were protesters, including a group from the Florida League of the South that had signs that said, “Yankees Go Home.”

“We reject outsiders coming to Florida . . . and trying to remake us in their own image,” said Michael Tubbs, state chairman of the Florida League of the South. “We do feel like it’s a stick in the eye to the Christian people of Florida to have these outsiders come down here with their money and their leadership and promote their outside values here.”

However, the group that put up the Ten Commandments statue posted this on Facebook:

“We want you all to remember that this issue was won on the basis of this being a free speech issue, so don’t be alarmed when the American Atheists want to erect their own sign or monument. It’s their right. As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord and that’s what matters.”


Photo Credit: istock


Jim Ven
Jim V1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

Pam, you rock. religion is such a sad crutch. It has had it hay day (amidst much slaughter, death, hypocrisy and injustice) It's time to let reason, science and common sense have a turn in this world

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you Judy, for Sharing this!

Melania Padilla
Melania P4 years ago

Awesome! Let them be! You know, not everyone is entitled to be part of any religion!

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G4 years ago


Lyn B.
Lyn B4 years ago

I hate not having a counter on Care2!

I'm not saying I want to go to heaven, I just think the irony, if I'm right, would be priceless!
LOL! I would take hell too, if only to get the chance to laugh at the fundies for winding up in hell with me!

Lyn B.
Lyn B4 years ago

@Karen H,
I guess it's too soon but you deserve another star for the comment you posted starting with, "people aren't getting that atheism isn't a religion...."

It's like you were taking words out of head!
Especially about the "christian" level of hate and venom.

I was raised in the methodist/lutheran churches, even taught sunday school, lol! This was BEFORE I got shown the ugly side of religion, fundamentalism, which made me run far, far away!
So, even though I'm an "eclectic pagan", I do actually know the bible.

I am always continually shocked and disgusted by the way this book and especially Jesus, are portrayed, misquoted, and abused by so-called christians. How often it's used in such hateful, ugly, and venomous ways.
One hopes that if "they"(they being the fundy christians) are "right" and I put right in quotes because I don't mean right in the way they've interpreted the bible. I mean that if Christianity IS "true", those disgusting, hateful fundies will be in Hell where they belong for their gross misinterpretation of the word of god.
And those of us, they so malign will be in the very Heaven, they so desperately wanted to end up in, because WE'VE lived life the way it's meant to be lived; without hate and judgement, with love and respect for the land, the animals within and our fellow human.
I'm not saying I want to go to heaven, I just think the irony, if I'm right, would be priceless!
LOL! I would take hell too, if only to get the chance to laugh a

Lyn B.
Lyn B4 years ago

@Pam W,
I sent a star your way but you deserve way more than one!

pam w.
pam w4 years ago

Karen, you're far more tolerant than I when Witnesses knock on my door, especially when they bring their little children if THAT will prevent me from expressing my displeasure in having my privacy disturbed by unsolicited solicitation! It doesn't work.

Atheism is NOT a religion.

"RELIGION" is the belief in supernatural beings, principles or phenomena.

"RELIGION" is the belief in special, personal relationships with a VIP in the sky, who watches our every deed, hears our every word, senses our every thought. Despite the (rather significant) duties of managing a universe, this VIP pays special attention to YOU.

"RELIGION" is arrogant. It consists of saying magic spells, performing mystical rites and supporting priests to mediate for us in the unbelievably arrogant belief that WE can influence the present and the future.

Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

Ran out of space again. Someday I'll learn...

I’m certainly not shoving my beliefs in your face, Shelah L. I don’t care what you believe. I thank the Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on my door every weekend and the people preaching outside the supermarket, and sometimes take their tracts and read them. I don’t hand them any literature and tell them to read about my beliefs because my beliefs are my own and I will share them if you ask, but I’m certainly not going to shove them in your face.
David B, I’m thinking the bench was put up simply because it could be. It shows freedom to believe (or not) whatever you want. The moon is made of green cheese and the world is flat. And, as Monty Python noted, no one expected the Spanish Inquisition.