Concerning the Harris County Appeal over its Courthouse Bible Display
Press release issued: December 5, 2005
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
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.
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