STARKE, Fla. -- The first atheist-sponsored monument on government property in the United States was unveiled in Starke on Saturday.
The monument, established in the "Free Speech Zone" next to the Bradford County Courthouse, is the result of a settlement reached between the County, local plaintiff Daniel Cooney and the American Atheists group.
Daniel Cooney has lived in Starke for over 30 years with his own opinions about religion. He said he feels that his opinions have inspired other Starke residents to find their voice.
Following a protest against the Ten Commandments monument placed in the "Free Speech Zone," Cooney filed a lawsuit against Bradford County alleging the Ten Commandments monument at the courthouse amounted to government endorsement of religion.
"My opinion is that's not a place for us to express our differences. If anything that's a place to express our commonalities. Whether it be to display plaques of our servicemen or display our flag," said Cooney.
As of Saturday, the American Atheists organization is now represented with a 1,500 pound monument engraved with quotations from some of America's founding fathers and a list of the punishments for breaking the Ten Commandments.
"It's not just a matter of you can't put religion there, it's a matter of if you put religion there, we could be atheism there," said David Silverman, President of the American Atheists.
Silverman says there are plans to put up similar monuments across the nation.
The Community Men's Fellowship originally placed the Ten Commandments monument in front of the Courthouse. A Facebook post on the Fellowship's page says, "It's their right. As for us, we will continue to honor the Lord and that's what matters."
On social media some atheists say they are not happy. Luis Perez from Tampa Bay said, "This isn't a victory for us, it is a victory for the theists. They MUST take down the commandments, and we should not have our own monument."
Cooney once believed the Ten Commandment monument should be taken down, until he saw the support from local Atheists in Starke.
"This is their coming out, you know, for years they feel they've had to hide their feelings from everyone and their beliefs from everyone," said Cooney.
The American Atheists organization says it has 126 affiliate across the country. It has also started a local affiliate in Starke and has 50 members.
First Coast News