A Pennsylvania high school is facing a legal battle to keep its monument of the Ten Commandments, which it has had for decades, after an atheist group threatened to sue the school district for violating the separation of church and state.
Administrators at Valley High School in New Kingston, Pa., received a letter last week from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asking them to take the down the six-foot-high monument that sits on the school grounds outside of the entrance to the gymnasium. The statue displays the Ten Commandments as found in the Old Testament of the Bible, and was given in 1957 as a gift to the school by the New Kensington Fraternal Order of Eagles, a nonprofit community group.
The atheist group, however, is not concerned with how long the statue has been in place, as it feels that it clearly violates the First Amendment and the separation of church and state.
"This is not something we can let stay," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, the FFRF's co-founder, WOFL FOX 35 reported. "This isn't a minor violation. The law is totally clear. There really should be no need to sue."
In the letter, the FFRF also cites the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Stone v. Graham, which determined that public schools cannot display religious messages or iconography.
Valley High School, however, does not currently have any plans to remove the monument, and administrators insist they are ready to settle the issue in court.
"We're not happy with them asking us to take down the Ten Commandments," Dr. George Batterson, Valley High School Superintendent, admitted. "The one thing that's very very important that people realize is that there is no way that our school district is trying to promote or impose religion on our students. This is just a monument that was donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, way back in 1957 and we see this having more historical significance than religious," he explained.
"I feel it should stay," added New Kensington Eagles Secretary Marc Hoak. "This is our creed and our motto. I hope (the district) doesn't consider this group's request. It seems like they want to take away all of our social values in this country."
According to the Fox article, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is also fighting a similar battle with a school board in Giles County, Va., to have a Ten Commandments display removed from Narrows High School.