Religion

Six Organizations Join Appeal To Remove Ten Commandments From Pennsylvania School

| by Nik Bonopartis
A Ten Commandments Monument In The New Kensington School District, Pennsylvania.A Ten Commandments Monument In The New Kensington School District, Pennsylvania.

Although a judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a Pittsburgh-area school, a lawyer representing a student says the monument should be removed -- or the student should be paid damages -- "for walking in the shadow of" the "imposing monolith."

Marcus Schneider, an attorney for Marie Shaub and her daughter, joined a legal battle against the Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, after the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation demanded the district take down the Ten Commandments monument in 2012, according to TribLive.

In December, the Schaubs and the FFRF gained a half dozen new allies in their effort to appeal a judge's decision to let the monument stand.

U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry dismissed the case in July, noting that Schaub's daughter -- referred to only as "Doe 1" in legal documents -- does not attend Valley Junior-Senior High School, and Shuab herself had only seen the monument once or twice while dropping her daughter off at a karate event.

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Shuab's offense at the monument, McVerry wrote in his decision, "seems to have manifested itself only after FFRF became involved in this dispute," TribLive reported.

But Schuab decided to send her daughter to a different school, in another school district, "to avoid the coercive effect that [they] believe the Monument conveys," Schneider wrote in asking for an appeal.

In December, six organizations joined the FFRF's lawsuit -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Anti-Defamation League, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, The Sikh Coalition and the Union for Reform Judaism, according to TribLive.

New Kensington-Arnold School District hasn't filed a legal response to the appellant's argument for an appeal, the newspaper reported.

It may be a moot point anyway. The same judge ruled that another Ten Commandments monument in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, “runs afoul of the Establishment Clause." Legal experts said the court would likely come to a similar finding in the New Kensington appeal, in which attorneys were expected to modify their argument to say the monument's presence endorses religion.

After a four-year legal battle, leaders of the Connellsville Area School District decided to move the Ten Commandments display to private property in October, citing the desire to avoid more litigation. The monument, which was donated to the school by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the 1950s, was moved to a nearby church after standing at the school for half a century, TribLive said.

The New Kensington monument was donated by the same group. In the Connesville case, which also sought monetary damages for the offended student who sparked the lawsuit, McVerry ordered the district to pay a symbolic $1 in nominal damages, pointing out that the student no longer attended the Connellsville school.

“This ruling is in no way meant to denigrate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the citizens and elected officials in the Connellsville community who rallied in support of keeping the monument,” McVerry wrote. “When, however, our government, at whatever level, departs from mere acknowledgement of our religious history to endorsement of a particular religious message, as set forth in the Ten Commandments, it has gone too far.”

Sources: TribLive (2) (3) / Photo credit: KDKA