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Attorney wants Commandments suit against Connellsville district tossed

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Posted: Monday, December 3, 2012 3:52 pm

The display of a Ten Commandments monument donated 55 years ago outside one of its schools, is not an endorsement of religion by the Connellsville Area School District, an attorney argued Monday in court filings.

“Considering the “history and ubiquity” of this Eagles’ Ten Commandments monument, and assessing how a reasonable person would view it, it is clear that the monument does not convey a message of endorsement of religion. (T)he monument contains both religious and secular symbols, including an all-seeing eye, a bald eagle, and the American flag. Even if the religions aspects of the monument’s appearance and history indicate that it has some religious meaning, the district is not bound to display only symbols that are wholly secular, or to convey solely secular messages,” attorney John W. Smart wrote in a court filing requesting a dismissal of the lawsuit filed against the district.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and two Does, a mother and daughter, sued the district several months ago over the monument. The plaintiffs alleged that monument, placed outside the district's junior high school auditorium, violates a constitutional provision that precludes the government from endorsing religion.

The mother is an Atheist, and the daughter identifies as non-religious, according to the suit.

The district accepted the donation of the monument in 1957 from Aerie No. 493 Fraternal Order of the Eagles. The organization donated hundreds of monuments with the text of the Ten Commandments to communities across the country in hopes of giving young people a “common code of conduct to govern their actions,” Smart wrote. It has remained where it was placed 55 years ago, and is currently covered by a box as the lawsuit moves its way through court.

For more information, read Tuesday's Herald-Standard.

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