Students at a high school in Western Pennsylvania will be allowed to remain anonymous in their lawsuit against a monument of the Ten Commandments in front of the school, a judge has ruled.
The anonymous plaintiffs of the case against the New Kensington-Arnold School District are students from Valley High School, The Post-Gazette reported. They had expressed concerns that if their identities were revealed they would face danger, and presented as evidence Facebook posts and emails sent to their lawyers containing threats.
"The plaintiffs presently designated as 'Doe' may continue to proceed anonymously with the use of pseudonyms," U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry ruled, it was announced earlier this week. The case in question is titled The Freedom From Religion Foundation v. New Kensington-Arnold School District.
The FFRF, the nonprofit organization representing the plaintiffs, has said that the Ten Commandments monument promotes religion and is in violation of the separation of church and state.
"This is not something we can let stay. This isn't a minor violation. The law is totally clear. There really should be no need to sue," the FFRF has said.
The statue in question is a six-foot-high monument that sits on the school grounds outside of the entrance to the gymnasium at Valley High School, displaying the Ten Commandments as found in the Old Testament of the Bible. It was given in 1957 as a gift to the school by the New Kensington Fraternal Order of Eagles, a nonprofit community group.
Valley High School officials have defended the monument, however, and have said that they have no plans of taking down the Ten Commandments.
"We're not happy with them asking us to take down the Ten Commandments," said Dr. George Batterson, Valley High School Superintendent. "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."
The plaintiffs in the case are arguing for an injunction that will require the school to move the monument, and that they had a "reasonable fear" of harm if they were identified.
One threat that they presented to the court posted on Facebook read: "Have the families involved in the lawsuit been identified? I cannot believe anyone living in the community would participate in such a worthless cause. Someone needs to send that group back to Wisconsin with several black eyes!"
The poster later added: "It was not a threat of violence, but a figure of speech."