Did a Florida Court Name April 1 as a Holiday for Atheists?

An evangelical “gotcha” meme that originated as an email continues to linger online, as such detritus often does, as both text copypasta and in graphic form.

The meme is set inside a Florida courthouse, where an atheist and his attorney has filed a lawsuit, described here as “a discrimination case against Christians and Jews” seeking to stop their religious observances. It reads in part:

The lawyer immediately stood and objecting [sic] to the ruling saying, “Your honor, How can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others.

The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays…”

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, “But you do. Your client, counselor, is woefully ignorant.”

The lawyer said,” Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “Psalm 14:1 states, ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ The calendar says April 1st is April Fool’s Day. Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that, if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.”

The story is false; no such trial ever took place. But, nearly 13 years after we first encountered it as a chain email shared in a Facebook “Christian” group, the “atheists’ holiday” meme continues to surface online, with no explanation that it’s supposed to be humorous:

A search for photographs on Facebook under “A FLORIDA COURT SETS ATHEIST HOLY DAY” also produces several iterations of the meme:

In reality, a federal appeals court in Florida actually ruled on the side of atheists in one notable case in July 2019; the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a ban on atheists being allowed to perform invocations in Brevard County constituted a “haphazard selection process.”

“People’s religious beliefs should never determine whether they can participate in civic affairs,” said attorney Alex Luchenitser, who represented the Americans United for Separation of Church and State in a suit against county officials.

Update 4/14/2022, 1 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. -ag