Relaymedia

Atheist Group Fights to Remove Bible from City Council

( [email protected] ) Jan 17, 2014 12:17 PM EST
A resident from Pinellas Park, Florida and The Freedom From Religion Foundation are seeking to put an end to the placement of the Bible that has been displayed at the City Council Chambers since 1975. The group deems the display of the Bible as "inappropriate" and a violation of the Constitution because it promotes the religion of Christianity.
(Photo by Scoan London)

A resident from Pinellas Park, Florida and The Freedom From Religion Foundation are seeking to put an end to the placement of the Bible that has been displayed at the City Council Chambers since 1975. The group deems the display of the Bible as "inappropriate" and a violation of the Constitution because it promotes the religion of Christianity.

For years, humanist Randy Heine has been advocating for the removal of the Bible from public display at the government setting. "The Bible must go. It doesn't belong in a government meeting," said Heine, according to FOX News. "Every time I speak, it makes me feel awkward."

For his part, Heine has consistently written letters to the city urging a proper "separation of church and state," stating the problem is not the Bible, but the endorsement of one religion. It was not until receiving aid from The Freedom of Religion Foundation that Heine reinforced his stance to remove the Bible from the City Council Chambers.

The Freedom of Religion Foundation is a non-profit organization consisted of atheists, agnostics and self-proclaimed "freethinkers" that strives in "protecting the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state." The organization was first based in Madison, Wisconsin in 1978, with a membership of over 19,000 people, making it the nation's largest organization advocating nontheism.

The organization also enlisted a letter to Pinellas Park, siding with Heine to remove the Bible from the seat of the government. The letter also cites examples of how Bibles were previously removed successfully from public display in other federal cases. Additionally, the foundation strives on removing any church-related events from the city's bail mailings.

"Not only is the city council sending a message of endorsement for Christianity over other religions and nonreligion," the letter reads, "but display of this King James Bible sends a message of endorsement of one particular Christian sect over all others."

The attempts to remove the Bible from public display has so far been unsuccessful, despite Heine writing four letters within the range of last summer. Pinellas Park City Manager, Doug Lewis, addressed the controversy stating that since 1975 it has been a great part of the building's history.

"The Bible was given to the city by the Kiwanis Club, I believe when the building was dedicated," Lewis said. "They feel it's part of City Hall, as being part of the dedication ceremony, and it's become part of the history of the building."

Lewis, who will take the official title of manager next week, will review the letters sent by Heine and the Foundation From Religion Foundation and "consider [their] requests" before taking any action. Heine and the Foundation have said they are ready to go to Federal Court if necessary to remove the Bible from "endorsing" religion.