A couple of years ago, there was a lot of drama in Florida in response to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Bradford County Courthouse. Because government officials wanted it to remain there, they had to allow monuments from other religious/non-religious groups… or face a very risky lawsuit. American Atheists soon installed a bench outside the courthouse peppered with quotations about atheism and church/state separation:
Now, the Gilchrist County Commissioners appear to be following a similar path, supporting a Ten Commandments monument on government property:
Dixie County resident Joe Anderson has offered to cover the cost of a Ten Commandments monument to be placed near the busy intersection, as well as paying for any legal expenses that might arise if the monument is challenged, reported Commissioner D. Ray Harrison, Jr. Commissioner Kenrick Thomas said on Monday that it’s time for Christians to take a stand for what they believe in.
It’s irrelevant who pays for the monument if it’s on a busy public intersection. Unless the Commissioners are willing to see a giant Satanic Temple monument in the same area, they need to say no.
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter today to the County Administrator Bobby Crosby explaining the problems that would arise if they did this:
… the proposed Ten Commandments display would undoubtedly violate the First Amendment. Prudence dictates that your county government should respect the rights of religious minorities and the constitutional separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause. Ten Commandment monuments are perfectly acceptable if financed privately and erected on private property, but construction of such monuments on public property can only be seen as inviting ill will, confrontation, and litigation.
It’s not like the leaders in Gilchrist are unaware of what happened in Bradford. They’re only about 90 minutes away from each other. And yet they’re willing to risk litigation because they think it’s the government’s job to promote Christianity.
Anderson says he’ll pay the cost of litigation, but I would get that in writing, since it’s the taxpayers who will be on the hook when he loses and reneges on his deal.