A federal district judge on Tuesday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Wisconsin-based group against a school district in Westmoreland County regarding its display of a Ten Commandments monument.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued both the New Kensington-Arnold School District and the Connellsville Area School District over displays of the Ten Commandments posted outside schools in each district. The New Kensington-Arnold suit was filed first, and there is a decision pending on a motion to dismiss the Connellsville suit.

FFRF, a national group that works to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, is a plaintiff in both suits. Additional people in both districts — mainly identified by pseudonyms — are also listed. Both suits seek to declare the monuments, which were donated decades ago by local chapters of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, unconstitutional.

The FFRF said the monuments are religious in nature and cannot be posted outside of a public place.

The arguments to dismiss the cases filed on behalf of the school districts were similar, specifically referring to the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Van Orden v. Perry.

That ruling held that the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of a government building in Texas did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

That clause essentially says that the government cannot endorse a specific religion.

“I am reluctant to comment with a somewhat similar motion pending before the same court, albeit with a different judge, however, we will be reviewing the New Kensington decision with great interest,” said Christopher Stern, solicitor for the Connellsville Area School District.

In his response to New Kensington’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry wrote, “Perhaps the court may later find the plaintiff’s position untenable and their requested relief unwarranted, but a fair reading of the complaint at this stage of the proceedings leads to the conclusion that the factual allegations provided by the plaintiffs extend beyond conclusory assertions to at least having stated a facially plausible claim.”

McVerry outlined a number of legal tests that judges use to determine whether the Establishment Clause has been violated, acknowledging the uniquely difficult nature of determining which tests to use in which cases.

“The court endeavors to provide the parties with some degree of clarity as we move forward,” he wrote.

McVerry explained that the court’s decision to deny the motion to dismiss recognized that the plaintiffs factually addressed several legal tests in the initial complaint, sufficiently enough for the case to move forward.

(2) comments


C'mon, people. We have a clearly stated and amply adjudicated law, the establishment clause, at work here. The principle that religions cannot proselytize to public school kids has been settled dozens, if not hundreds of times. Yet are we doomed to play this whack-a-mole game of groundhog day for eternity? It seems so. A new case pops up daily somewhere in the country, usually almost identical to previously settled cases. The precedents are set. The law obviously has no teeth. Congress now needs to pass a law prescribing some kind of punishment for individuals who continue to flout the law. Why can't religious fanatics realize, at minimum, that their right to freedom of religion does NOT extend to using the power of the state to force their religion on others, in ANY setting, that their freedom of religion is completely satisfied by being free to worship anywhere, any time, as long as they don't attempt to use a government forum to do it? Don't they realize that government endorsement of religion is AGAINST their interests, and that secular government is the ONLY pathway to freedom of religion? They get to cram their religion in everybody else's face, while maintaining that they themselves are being suppressed by not being allowed to use the state to force prayer, display religious icons and messages, or otherwise subsidize or support their religion. Make no mistake. They want to use government to spread their religion, to create a de facto theocracy, and have had some measure of success at it. This is not what the founders envisioned. They want it all. Their way or the highway. They don't care about the constitution or the bill of rights, and they know that their way will destroy them. Therefore, their attempts to subvert them constitute subversion and possibly treason. They should be dealt with accordingly.


Thanks Infidel, very well stated.

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