Atheists Strike Back Against Judge's Ruling to Keep Ten Commandments on Campus

A Ten Commandments display placed on the campus of Valley High School of New Kensington-Arnold School District in Pennsylvania. | (Photo: Screengrab/

The nation's largest atheist group has filed an appeal in court to remove a Ten Commandments display from a Pennsylvania public high school.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the appeal earlier this month before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals against the New Kensington-Arnold School District.

At issue in the appeal was a lower court ruling that allowed for a Ten Commandments display at Valley High School to remain on the public grounds because the judge found the complaint "moot."

"Appellants suffered injury by acting to avoid unwelcome daily contact with the Ten Commandments Monument, which they sought to prevent through an injunction," read the appeal.

In 1957 the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the 6-foot tall Ten Commandments monument to Valley High School near the entrance of the public school's gymnasium.

In March 2012, FFRF sent a letter to the school district demanding they remove the display from public property, stating that they were acting on behalf of some local residents.

After the school district refused to remove the Ten Commandments, the FFRF filed a lawsuit in September 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

"District students come into contact with the monument while attending or visiting Valley High School," read the complaint in part.

"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."

During the legal proceedings, assorted clergy and the grassroots organization "Thou Shalt Not Move" held vigils and rallies in support of the monument.

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

"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."

McVerry also wrote that the plaintiff's legal issue with the monument "seems to have manifested itself only after FFRF became involved in this dispute …"

"In the court's view, this delayed reaction undermines Schaub's claim to standing. Regardless of how she might feel now, if she did not feel that way when she actually encountered the monument," continued McVerry.

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