According to Christian Group in Florida, God Wants Bradford County to Be Hit with a Lawsuit

Remember when Community Men’s Fellowship (a Christian group) gave the city of Bradford County, Florida the gift of a Ten Commandments monument to put outside the county courthouse?

American Atheists filed a lawsuit (PDF) against the county when that happened. They asked nicely first, but the county didn’t comply, so now they have 60 days to respond or else.

But there’s a little more to the story than that.

County officials actually want the Monument removed. They know they’re on the losing end of this lawsuit and they don’t want to pay the court costs associated with that. But the Monument’s big and heavy and they can’t do remove it themselves, so they asked the Community Men’s Fellowship group to do 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.”

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.”

Makes sense. So did the Christians do the right thing?

Of course not.

Upon receiving the letter, the Christians asked God what to do. Apparently, God said, “Screw the taxpayers.”

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.”

What the hell sort of response is that?!

I can see into their mindset now…: “We don’t want to remove the Monument, but we don’t want to be the only bad guys here… So let’s bring God into the picture! If county officials want to criticize us now, they’ll be criticizing our religion, too! WHY DO YOU HATE OUR RELIGION, BRADFORD COUNTY?!”

If the Christian group keeps refusing to move the piece of rock they installed, they could be included in the lawsuit, too. Bring it on. They obviously have too much money on their hands. They won’t mind losing a chunk of it.

By the way, this is a side note to the case but it’s important: The only reason American Atheists was able to file this lawsuit was because Daniel Cooney, a local resident and AA member, agreed to sign on as the plaintiff. Without him, AA wouldn’t be able to fight this battle. So, thanks for your courage, Daniel!

(Thanks to Brian for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jc.craig1 Jim Craig

    A sledge hammer, three guys and a pickup truck could make short work of this.

    • Sindigo

      That’s just what I was thinking. or just post an ad on Craigslist: “Free ten commandments monument. Got to go this week or it’s going to get dismantled.”

    • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

      That’s what I was thinking.  Maybe there could be a fundraiser involved….$1 for every wack at the Ten Commandments.  Then just bring in a moderate sized jackhammer to finish it off.  Keep the big pieces to auction off at the next local/national atheist event as door stops and paperweights…might as put them to some use.  If we start seriously talking about doing that, I bet a local church will come forward and off to remove it to their property for free pretty quickly.

    • Barbara

      Ha, if we’re going to go that route, why not make it a televised sporting event like that Toughman contest? 

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      Maybe they could dress like Moses!  He busted up the first set.

      • 3lemenope

        “I present to you the fifteen [SMASH!]…um, TEN COMMANDMENTS!”

  • asonge

    Why not have the city claim ownership as it is abandoned and then “auction” it off with the stipulation that the new owner is responsible for moving it. Win-win.

    • Barbara

      That’s a damn good idea. 

  • gski

    If the county accepted the gift, the county owns it. It is theirs to dispose of. I would think god might chip in to pay for the removal.

    • Barbara

      Did the county actually accept this gift or did the Fellowship install the monument during the middle of the night for their own selfish reasons?

  • rufus_t

    I thought there were laws against fly-tipping in the US?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639378446 Bridget Gaudette

    Hemant- FYI, the men’s fellowship group plans to sue the county if they insist on having the monument removed, so the county will either get sued by American Atheists or the men’s group.. hmm.. 

    • alconnolly

       I guess the county would rather have a stupid completely losing lawsuit against them (we are suing you because we gave you something, you accepted, changed your mind, offered to give it back, we said no and then you disposed of your property). Then a legitimate one (we are suing you because you are violating the constitution of the united states and there is significant precedent to show that you know you are doing so).

    • Jporgal

      I say, fill in every thing except the numbers, then re-carve the Bill of Rights into it. 

    • Randomfactor

       I suspect they’d rather be sued by the religious group and win, than by the atheists and lose.

  • kimpatsu

    “Please accept this letter as Bradford County’s formal notice that the Community Men’s Fellowship must remove it’s Ten Commandments monument…”
    So the county manager doesn’t know how to use apostrophes? An inauspicious start.
    Anyway, if the Xians won’t remove the monument, let’s not pay to have it hauled away; let’s just dynamite it. Fun for all the family!

    • digitalatheist

      Round me up a couple blocks of C-4 and some det cord and we can do it with a counterforce charge. Believe me… the rubble will be worth it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    I’m not familiar with the backstory, but I’m kind of on the Christian group’s side here.  Did they sneak in at night and drop this thing off against the county’s will?  Did they force the thing onto county property over the county government’s objections?

    Or did the county accept a “gift” from them when the people in charge thought it would be a political boost (or at least neutral) and then, when the wind shifted, not only try to retroactively reject the gift, but also demand that the giver pay to remove the gift?  

    Put aside whether the monument should have been placed there at all, because the county is at least complicit in that and certainly shares that responsibility, and the question remains whether it’s really the Christian group’s responsibility to pay to remove a gift that’s no longer wanted.  

    Besides, Gski’s got the right idea.  The solution is obvious:  PRAY, brothers, PRAY for the REMOVAL of this MONUMENT.  PRAY HARD!

    • 3lemenope

      Yeah, I’m really not seeing why it’s the Community Men’s Fellowship’s responsibility to move this thing. The town accepted the gift, it’s theirs now. I get not wanting to pay moving costs, but it’s generally better than court costs. The idea someone mentioned above of auctioning it off sounds to me like a winner; there’s gotta be some church around that could use a handsome giant granite decalogue. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

        Yes, but prayer is free.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rhsanborn Harry Sanborn

      It may be slightly more complicated. I’m not familiar with the details but the fellowship may own the monument, and the city may be allowing them to display it there, which would complicated destroying it.

      That said, I completely agree with you. The city accepted the monument. They weren’t victims of it. They can be responsible for the ensuing mess that they ought to have known would come.

  • https://agoldstardad.wordpress.com/ Fozzy

    If they have a flock of convicts in the county jail.. issue them some sledge hammers and this thing when busted into lots of smaller chunks will be very easy to remove and would make some spiffy road base material.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Stone is valuable and sought after by builders and sculptors so should be an easy free give away if not sold.  If I was local, I’d love the chance to practice some block cutting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jesus-Chrystler/1797838676 Jesus Chrystler

    I think we are missing something.  Perhaps the city is trying to provide the fellowship, which paid $22,000 for the monument, an opportunity to take its gift back.  The next step, since they refuse, shows that the City now owns it and I have a feeling we will be seeing them auction if off for funds, and then the Fellowship getting upset for not having it returned to them.  This notice just provides the city appropriate documentation to show that they did try to return the expensive gift, but the fellowship just didn’t want it.

  • Achughes1023

    Why not sell 3 hits with a hammer for $5 and then cart it off!!!

  • MumbleMumble

    This is a little bizarre: Harry Hatcher is the county manager who wrote to the Community Mens Fellowship asking to remove the big rock. Harry Hatcher is also, apparently, a founding member of the CMF, and leads them every week. He spoke at the ceremony they had putting up the ten commandments thing, saying how great it is. So this was clearly put up with the permission of the county (Hatcher being the county manager, and all). If the CMF doesn’t want it anymore, doesn’t want to pay for its removal, it’s the county’s fault for putting it up in the first place. Sorry, taxpayers; you can elect new folks in the next term.

  • Annie

    The county commissioners voted and approved the placement of the monument in a commission meeting.  They did this even though they knew a neighboring county had already lost a legal battle and was ordered to take their similar monument down (which they are currently appealing).   Surely, they knew a lawsuit was likely in their future. 

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Apparently, the commissioners are well practiced at denying reality.  I suspect that most of them get lessons once a week.

      It looks like the county taxpayers will eventually have to foot the bill for removing it, but the commissioners want to both look reluctant to make their constituents pay, AND they want to look reluctant to remove it at all. That way the taxpayers might be a little more forgiving for having to pay for removing it, because the commissioners were trying to be “good Christians.”  Those mean old atheists will still be the villains.

      The worse this gets, the better for preventing future unconstitutional displays on public property, because hearing of this might finally break through the denial of reality in officials of other cities and counties. There may already be several cities and counties that have quietly said, “Uh, no, thank you” to proposals of ten commandment monuments or other religious displays.

      • Annie

        All good points.  Plus three of the five commissioners will be up for re-election in November, so they probably want to preserve any support they may have in this highly Christian county.  Another county, Gilchrist, has also approved a 10 commandment monument, but they have yet to place it.  I agree that it would be very good if this got messy and difficult for the commissioners.  It would make other counties think twice.  One county (Madison… these are all in rural north Florida), voted against displaying a monument at their courthouse.  One of the main reasons for voting against the monument was their fear of legal action.  The more pressure that can be put on these counties, and the more law suits for those that do not recognize this obvious disregard of the Constitution, the better in my opinion.

  • Traveling Txn

    I like the idea of hiring someone to re-carve the stone into something acceptable like the bill of rights.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    I wonder if a resident of the county might have an additional lawsuit for the cost of removal of the monument.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    I like the auction idea suggested. I’m sure there is a mega-church somewhere that would LOVE to have it.

    My confusion comes as to why all these Christian groups insist on only picking 10 commandments out of the 613…? Or do we only pick the ones that we want..?

  • B_R_Deadite99

    Sue those fuckers. I’m sick and tired of right-wing Christians ranting all day about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights just so they can piss on it when religion gets involved. If they won’t do the polite thing, and render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s, then they will lose some pocket change.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VC7OQ243CPNXTSNSSHFI5AHLLA ross

    so, when those 10 commandments are physically gone, will that mean you are no less responsible for your own actions? i think not. just because God is not visible to you does not negate His existance. He is merciful. He allows you to act like you do. One day you wont breathe anymore, then you will find out….. 

    • Robert Dawkins

       No, we won’t….he doesn’t exist, and you’re the one wasting the ONE life you’ll ever have on following a myth perpetrated by long-dead ignorant tribal elders. But, that’s okay…you’ll never convince me, and I’ll never enlighten you, Ross, so go ahead and enjoy your (ignorant) bliss….


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