Penn. Churches Distribute 1,500 Ten Commandments Signs to Protest Removal of Display From School

A sign promoting the Ten Commandments placed outside of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Irwin, Pennsylvania.
A sign promoting the Ten Commandments placed outside of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Irwin, Pennsylvania. | (Photo: The Rev. John Moineau)

A trio of Pennsylvania churches have distributed approximately 1,500 signs with the Ten Commandments in response to the removal of a Decalogue display from a regional high school.

In March, officials from the New Kensington-Arnold School District removed a Ten Commandments display from the campus of Valley High School following an atheist group's legal complaint.

In response, the Immaculate Conception Church of Irwin, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church of North Huntingdon, and St. Agnes Church of North Huntingdon have distributed their own Ten Commandments signs to interested residents.

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The Church of the Immaculate Conception, located in Irwin, Pennsylvania.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception, located in Irwin, Pennsylvania. | (Photo: the Rev. John Moineau)

Father John Moineau, pastor of Immaculate Conception and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, told The Christian Post that he felt the signs "would be a good opportunity to express our religious freedom by displaying them in the yards of the parishioners."

"The Second reason was to awaken the natural law that has been written on every human heart and resonating in each soul. In the face of relativism society needs to know that these truths are loving truths that lead to harmony, happiness and the fullness of life," explained Father Moineau.

"The third reason was to remind ourselves as well as those who see the signs that we have been blessed to have been given these commands to help us choose love of God and neighbor and recognize when we fail to do so that there is a merciful God that forgives."

Thus far, approximately 1,500 signs have been distributed by the three churches, with Moineau noting that many of their neighbors "have applauded the effort" and are asking for signs of their own.

"When so many signs are seen and so many willing to place them in their yards shows that the love of God and neighbor is still alive. It represents more than a social good but a love of God and His presence in our midst," continued Moineau.

"We hope that it will make us all more accountable for our actions and a challenge to strive to uphold the Ten Commandments in our lives."

In September 2012, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against the New Kensington-Arnold School District over a Ten Commandments display outside of Valley High School's gymnasium, which had stood there since 1957.

"District students come into contact with the monument while attending or visiting Valley High School," read the 2012 lawsuit.

"The plaintiffs seek a declaration that the district's practice of displaying the Ten Commandments in front of its public school is unconstitutional, an injunction requiring the Ten Commandments to be removed from public school property, nominal damages, and attorneys' fees and costs."

In July 2015, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled in favor of New Kensington-Arnold School District against the arguments of the FFRF.

"Plaintiffs ... have failed to establish that they were forced to come into 'direct, regular, and unwelcome contact with the' Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Valley High School," wrote McVerry.

"Because plaintiffs lack standing, the court's inquiry is concluded. The court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to address the merits of plaintiffs' claims, and this action must be dismissed."

The FFRF appealed the decision to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2015. In August 2016, the panel overturned the lower court decision, arguing that the plaintiff did indeed have standing to sue.

In February, the school district and the FFRF reached a settlement in which the district would pay the group approximately $40,000 and move the display off the campus.

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