Pennsylvania county removes memorial bench after atheists complain about religious inscription

A memorial bench in a Venango County, Pennsylvania, public park has been permanently relocated after an atheist group grumbled about what was inscribed on the bench.

On Monday night, a crowd gathered outside the Oil City Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, along the banks of the Allegheny River, for a re-dedication of the granite bench, nicknamed “Tyrant’s Bench,” according to KDKA-TV.

“The problem we’re solving today is the effect of the negative influence of persons who demand respect for their beliefs, but are not willing to do so toward others,” VFW Commander Jason Reed said during the ceremony.

The inscription on the bench, which was originally donated to the city by the VFW, reads, “Men who aren’t governed by God, will be governed by tyrants” — a quote often attributed to William Penn, founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Reed said the inscription is not “a religious quote.”

But the American Atheists, headquartered in New Jersey, believe that, as long as the bench is on public property, it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

In a letter sent in November, the atheist group argued the inscription “not only has absolutely nothing to do with honoring our service members, but is derisive toward the all non-Christian American service members who have served and died for this country.”