PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – A nationally-recognized atheist activist group is demanding that officials with a Florida city remove a 40-year-old Bible from city hall chambers.
The Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) recently sent a letter to officials in Pinellas Park, Florida on behalf of local businessman Randy Heine, who states that the Bible makes him feel uncomfortable when he attends city meetings.
“The Bible must go. It doesn’t belong in a government meeting,” he told Fox13 Tampa Bay. “Every time I speak, it makes me feel awkward.”
According to reports, the Bible was presented to the city in 1975 by the local Kiwanis club and has rested on a desk in the chambers for nearly 40 years since.
Government Relations Administrator Tim Caddell said that local residents have not expressed any grievances about the Bible in the decades that have passed.
“We’ve not had complaints from residents, from people who participated,” he told Bay News9. “We have complaints from groups who come in looking to find something wrong.”
However, FFRF says that the Bible serves as a government endorsement of Christianity, and asserts that such a suggestion is unconstitutional.
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“It’s on display, and that certainly is improper. It shows an endorsement of the Bible as a holy book over other holy books,” Co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor told reporters. “How would the people of Pinellas Park feel if it was a Quran?”
Therefore, the organization sent a letter to city officials, contending that the Bible must be removed.
“Not only is the city council sending a message of endorsement for Christianity over other religions and nonreligion,” it read, “but display of this King James Bible sends a message of endorsement of one particular Christian sect over all others.”
The letter also takes issues with inserts that are included with city utility bills, which advertise for church events, as well as prayers that precede city hall meetings.
FFRF has sent letters to Pinellas Park in the past, which have heretofore been ignored. However, a review of the correspondence is said to be underway this week.
Reaction to the matter has been mixed.
“I love the Freedom From Religion Foundation! … Help pull this country out of the insanity of superstitious beliefs,” one commenter wrote. “Magical thinking will not improve the human condition.”
“[T]here is nothing about separation of Church and State in the Constitution. The 1st Amendment simply says that the government (federal) will not declare any religion the religion of [the] State. This was due to what England did by making the Church of England the official religion of the country,” another stated. “Religious freedom means you are free to worship and display your worship. You are not supposed to worship behind closed doors!”