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School Caves to Demands of Atheist Group, Removes 50 Y/O Ten Commandments Monument

( [email protected] ) Feb 23, 2017 01:06 PM EST
The Ten Commandments will be removed from a Pennsylvania high school after an atheist filed a lawsuit claiming monument was "offensive" to her and her daughter.
The Ten Commandments monument outside the Valley High School in Pennsylvania Facebook/FFRF

The Ten Commandments will be removed from a Pennsylvania high school after an atheist filed a lawsuit claiming monument was "offensive" to her and her daughter.

According to the Valley News Dispatch, New Kensington-Arnold School District agreed to remove the 6-foot monument from its campus within 30 days after atheist Marie Schaub, along with the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation - a group well known for its staunch opposition to Christianity - claimed the monument was a strictly religious symbol, and thus violated the U.S. Constitution.

"It's unfortunate that many people in my community don't understand or appreciate the separation of church and state, but I hope this settlement serves as an important lesson," she told the Valley News Dispatch. 

The massive monument reportedly sat on the Valley High School grounds for several decades, beginning in 1957, and it wasn't until Schaub came forward in 2012 that a legal challenge to the monument arose. In the FFRF's legal brief, the organization claimed Schaub and her daughter were "burdened" by the "imposing monolith" and were forced to leave the school to "avoid the coercive effect ...the monument conveys."

In September 2012, FFRF filed a lawsuit against the school district on behalf of a few local residents who took issue with the display. However, three years later, U.S. District Juge Terrence F. McVerry ruled in favor of the school district, arguing that FFRF and their clients failed to prove that they were harmed by the display. In December 2015, the FFRF brought the case to a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which last August ruled in favor of Schaub.

In addition to removing the monument, the school district's insurance company will pay $163,500 in legal fees, including more than $40,000 to the FFRF.

"We're very pleased," FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott told the Valley News Dispatch. "It means that the Constitution is being followed by the school district."

In a statement released by the FFRF on Tuesday, Schaub said she and her family "are grateful to everyone who has helped us finally right a wrong that was committed so long ago."

"The removal of this religious monument will provide a more welcoming environment that will promote equality and neutrality," stated Schaub.

Meanwhile, during its convention in Pittsburgh in October, the FFRF presented Schaub with its "Atheist in a Foxhole Courage Award" for her "willingness to stay strong in the face of community backlash."

"She is small in stature," said Elliott. "But she will be (instrumental) in lifting a 2-ton monument. She has not wavered."

Tags : New Kensington-Arnold School District, Ten Commandments, atheist, Freedom From Religion Foundation, separation of church and state