In 1956 the Star Hope Mission erected a stone monument near the main entrance to the Harris County Texas Courthouse. The prominent feature of this monument was a King James Bible in a glass display case. Attorney and Harris County resident Kay Staley brought action against the county, seeking the permanent removal of the Bible display on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment. On August 10, 2004, District Court Judge Sim Lake delivered his final judgment on the matter, agreeing that this display was a violation of the First Amendment and ordering its removal.
The Atheist Community of Austin adds its voice to the many reasonable voices speaking out in favor of the original verdict and against its appeal. Harris County officials are wielding their power and squandering public funds in an ugly and foolish attempt to garner political support and overturn a just verdict.
The "Bible monument" was erected, in part, to convey the erroneous message that ours is a Christian government. After lying empty for 7 years, the Bible was restored to the display on behalf of a political campaign to "bring Christianity back to the law." Even without such obvious motives, this display was a clear violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
The Atheist Community of Austin applauds the courage of Kay Staley who, despite hate mail and death threats, stood up for the rights of all Americans. We are encouraged by Judge Lake's integrity in upholding the Constitution and we remain optimistic that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will continue to uphold the Constitution and deny this appeal.
Government neutrality toward religion is essential to ensure religious freedom in our diverse culture. The First Amendment protects the rights of people of all faiths and no faith by ensuring that favoritism toward a particular religion or type of religion is prohibited. The removal of this display doesn't prevent anyone from holding or practicing religious beliefs-- it simply prevents divisiveness and favoritism.
The removal of this display reaffirms the very foundations of American culture:
- That justice is blind to prejudice.
- That freedom is available to all.
- And that equality is truly universal.
The Atheist Community of Austin is organized as a nonprofit educational corporation to develop and support the atheist community, to provide opportunities for socializing and friendship, to promote secular viewpoints, to encourage positive atheist culture, to defend the first amendment principle of state-church separation, to oppose discrimination against atheists and to work with other organizations in pursuit of common goals.