Atheist group plans display at Bradford County Courthouse

Parties went to court; County happy with compromise outcome

By Scott Johnson - Reporter

STARKE, Fla. - For now, the bedrock principals of the Bible stand alone in the courtyard of the Bradford County Courthouse, but not for long as the American Atheists plan to put their own display right alongside.

It's the talk of the small town of Starke, where the Ten Commandments drew the ire of Atheists locally and nationally, after a display was put up by an outside group.

"I don't think it's right, I really don't," said one person.

"That's their right as well. That's their right," another said.

"It's a small town," said another. "It can stir up anything."

American Atheists sued, claiming the display violates separation of church and state.

"What we want is equality," said Dave Muscato. "Separation of church and state is our mission, but equality between religion and non-religion is not supposed to have any impact on governance. Thats the way our constitution is written."

All parties went to court, and Bradford County said they're actually happy with the compromise outcome. The Ten Commandments stay and the Atheists' plan to put up their own display in what the county refers to as a "free speech forum."

"From Bradford County's perspective, that was a tremendous outcome, because the county didn't endorse the Ten Commandments itself, just created this free speech forum," said Will Sexton of the Bradford County General Counsel.

The Athesists plan to put up a bench with different quotes, including one from Thomas Jefferson and prominent atheists. Along with that, they plan on putting the different punishments listed in the Bible for violating the ten individual commandments.

"I think these are people coming in to cause a disturbance or prove a point," said Bradford County resident Mike Ruszkowski. "If the law agrees with them, then let 'em put it up. It's not going to hurt. The fact that it's standing next to the greatest monument there is, which is the Ten Commandments."

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