Florida school adds freethought quotes (April 9, 2015)

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel sent a complaint letter last April to the University of Florida at Gainesville about a biblical quote inscribed at the newly erected Heavener School of Business. The quote chosen by donor James W. Heavener from Micah 6:8 says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?”

Now the public university has announced it will add three quotes from secular sources to be part of an “ethical portal” highlighting the importance of ethics in business. One quote chosen, from freethinking deist Thomas Paine, was suggested by Seidel: “My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” (“The Rights of Man” 1791)

The two other quotes were contributed by a faculty member who teaches ethics:

• “To restrain our selfish[ness], and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature.” (Adam Smith, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” 1759)
• “Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking; for it is merely useful and for the sake of something else.” (Aristotle, “Nicomachean Ethics”)

The portal includes a plaque that states, in part, “Scholars and students of ethics derive universal ethical principles from a wide range of sources, secular and religious, whether or not any particular scholar or student ascribes to religious beliefs.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor commented, “In an ideal world, there would be no religion or irreligion inscribed on public university property, but we think this compromise is acceptable, given that the biblical engraving was a fait accompli. We extend our appreciation to the university for its thoughtful response. Many people do not realize that Adam Smith was a freethinker in his own right, saying in ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that ‘Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition.’ “

Freedom From Religion Foundation