Bradford Co. served lawsuit over Ten Commandments monument


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Bradford County commissioners were served with a lawsuit this week from the American Atheists, which is suing the county over a Ten Commandments marker that sits outside the courthouse in Starke.

The county wants the group that put the monument there to remove it, but the group has said no.

The divisive piece of rock has been the source of protests and counter-protests, not so much for what it says, but where it's saying it: right in front of the Bradford County Courthouse.

"If you don't believe in it, it's just a hunk of granite. If you do believe in it, it's something spiritual to you," said Joy Petersen, who supports the religious monument.

"You know, if the Christians -- if you had something else from the Torah or the Koran, they would have had a fit," said Ken Petersen, who's against the monument. "So what's one religion versus another? That's why they have the separation of church and state."

The American Atheists believe the monument outside the courthouse is unconstitutional, so they sued. To avoid a costly legal fight, the county asked the group that sponsored the monument to remove it.

In a letter to the Community Men's Fellowship written June 11, county manager Harry Hatcher wrote: "Please accept this letter as Bradford County's formal notice that the Community Men's Fellowship must remove it's Ten Commandments monument from the Bradford County Courthouse property immediately."

Two weeks later, Community Men's Fellowship wrote back: "We have prayerfully considered your request and have determined that we will not comply with the County's order."

Terry Brown, the attorney representing Bradford County, said the county wants to avoid spending tax dollars to fight over a religious marker.

"The county doesn't have the ability to move it without accruing a very substantial cost in doing that," Brown said. "So somebody needs to pay for it, and it doesn't need to be the taxpayer."

Brown said Community Men's Fellowship will probably be included in a lawsuit if it refuses to remove its marker.

The county has 60 days to respond to the American Atheists lawsuit. Brown said it will respond. The county is going to try and get the lawsuit dismissed.