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Atheists Sue Over 10 Commandments Display at PA Middle School & Demand it Not Be Moved to Private Church Property

Photo Credit: Freedom From Religion Foundation

The Ten Commandments are under fire, once again, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, is taking yet another school system to court. This time, it's the Connellsville Area School District in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, that has caught the ire of secularists who are suing to have a display featuring the biblical code of conduct taken down.

The lawsuit, which the FFRF filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, was waged on behalf of an unnamed parent and child (referred to as Doe 4 and Doe 5). Doe 4 is purportedly a student at the junior high school.

The focus of the complaint is a six-foot stone monument that is displayed at the Connellsville Junior High School. According to the FFRF and its clients, the structure violates the First Amendment, so they are asking the court to order that it be removed from the school's property.

The FFRF offers more about the monument and the case at hand:

The monument, which is between 5 and 6 feet tall, is near the main entrance by the Junior High auditorium. When the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the monument in 1957, the building was the high school.

The complaint states that the continued presence of the Ten Commandments on district property is an unconstitutional advancement and endorsement of religion. The complaint also notes that the display "lacks any secular purpose," citing Stone v. Graham, a 1980 Supreme Court decision which ruled the Ten Commandments may not be posted in public school classrooms, because "The pre-eminent purpose" for doing so "is plainly religious in nature."

The Post-Gazette adds even more about the ongoing debate over the symbol:

The foundation and district had been in talks that led to a tentative decision to remove the monument to the grounds of a nearby church. But the district put that action on hold Sept. 12 when members of the public demanded that the monument be retained.

According to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court, an unidentified district student who is non-religious and the student's unidentified parent who is an atheist felt excluded because of the monument's presence on school grounds.

However, as notes, they're also asking that it not be allowed to be placed at a nearby church. Nearby Connellsville Church of God has become a focus of the debate due to its location, which would still place the symbol in view of students attending the school.

According to Pittsburgh attorney Marcus B. Schneider, who is working with the FFRF on the case, students who play athletics on the school's fields "cannot avoid" the Ten Commandments.

While the school district made previous attempts to cover up the monument, the efforts were unsuccessful and atheists decided to take to the courts to solve the matter.



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