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Atheists unveil monument in Florida and promise to build 50 more

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At the unveiling of the first-ever atheist monument erected on government public property Saturday, the organization American Atheists announced that they plan to erect more monuments at locations throughout the country. In a press release, American Atheists President David Silverman said that the organization has plans for 50 more monuments at public sites across the country.

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The unveiling took place at noon on Saturday at the courthouse in Starke, Florida, where last year a Christian group erected a monument to the Christian Bible’s Ten Commandments. The new atheist monuments will be placed in similar locations, where Christian groups have erected monuments to their beliefs in public, government-owned places.

“We’re not going to let them do it without a counterpoint,” Silverman told the Miami Herald. “If we do it without a counterpoint it’s going to appear very strongly that the government actually endorses one religion over another, or — I should say — religion in general over non-religion.”

The Starke monument was born out of a lawsuit filed by American Atheists asking that the Bradford County Courthouse remove the Ten Commandments monument, alleging that it violated the separation of church and state. The atheists were unable to have the Christian monument removed, but were told that they could erect their own monument at the site.

American Atheists agreed and Saturday presented the finished monument, a 1,500-pound granite bench and plinth inscribed with quotes by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, as well as Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists.

Free speech, said Silverman, is for everyone. “This is one of the tricks that Christians have used” to get around the separation of church and state, he said.

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“Because they go up and call it a free-speech zone and then they’re unopposed,” he explained. “They get their government legitimization because nobody else calls their bluff and puts something in.”

The 50 new monuments, the group said, are being funded by an anonymous donor.

[image of veiled monument via American Atheists Twitter feed]

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