Bradford County, FL

Ten Commandments Monument

Introduction

On May 3, 2012, Bradford County, Florida unveiled a five-foot-tall, six-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County Courthouse. This monument was a gift from the group "Community Men's Followship" and cost $22,000. The monument was paid for by the same person who gave a similar gift to Dixie County, FL in 2006 and which was ruled unconstitutional in 2011. 

Bradford CountyOn May 3, 2012, the 2012 National Day of Prayer, the monument was unveiled and dedicated with Christian prayer services. American Atheists organized a protest led by then-Florida State Director Bridget Gaudette and Starke resident Dan Cooney. This protest drew counter-protesters from Christians.

On May, 24, 2012, American Atheists and Daniel Cooney, a resident of Bradford County and member of American Atheists, filed suit in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. The civil complaint can be read in its entirety here.

In the complaint, American Atheists and Mr. Cooney demanded a declaratory judgement stating that the display of the monument violates the United States Consitution, specifically the Establishment Clause and an injuction requiring the removal of the monument. 

Response from Bradford County

Following American Atheists' lawsuit, on June 11, Bradford County Manager Harry Hatcher requested that the Community Men's Fellowship remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Bradford County Courthose. Two weeks later, the group wrote that they had "prayerfully considered [his] request and have determined that [they] will not comply with the County's order."

Following the order, the Community Men's Fellowship filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the removal of the monument from the courthouse property, alleging that doing so would infringe on their First Amendment rights. 

On July 27, 2012, Bradford County filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit from American Atheists, because, in part, the monument was places and maintained by a private organization (the Community Men's Fellowship). However, this ignores the fact that courts have held repeatedly that a reasonably observer would interpret the placement of such a monument, regardless of who maintains it, as a government endorsement of religion. In our response to the motion to dismiss, American Atheists illustrates this point.

Mediation and Settlement

On January 8, 2013, District Judge Timothy Corrigan referred this case to mediation. American Atheists engaged in mediated discussions with Bradford County and the Community Men's Fellowship. 

On May 30, 2013, American Atheists announced a settlement with Bradford County. In this agreement, American Atheists would agree to drop our lawsuit as long as Bradford County allowed us to place a monument to the secular foundation of our nation's laws on the courthouse grounds.

This marks the first time that such a monument, sponsored by an atheist group, will be placed on public land.

American Atheists unveiled and dedicated the monument on June 29, 2013.

 

 

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