FFRF Files Ten Commandments Lawsuit

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania over a six-foot tall Ten Commandments monument at the front entrance of Valley High School in New Kensington, PA. The monument, like many others around the country, was donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles as part of a marketing campaign for the Cecil B. DeMille movie The Ten Commandments. In a press release the group says:

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott first sent a letter in March to the District Superintendent requesting that he remove the Ten Commandments monument because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The district failed to move the monument or even write an official response.

Board President Robert Pallone, however, wrote in March on the Facebook webpage called “KEEP THE TEN COMMANDMENTS AT VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL,” that the district would not “remove this monument without a fight !!!!!” Clergy in the area held a rally during the school day in front of Valley High School to support the decision to retain the religious monument.

The complaint notes the display “lacks any secular purpose,” citing Stone v. Graham, a 1980 Supreme Court decision which ruled the Ten Commandments may not be posted in public school classrooms, because “The pre-eminent purpose” for doing so “is plainly religious in nature.”

You can read the full complaint here. One of the plaintiffs in the case is requesting the right to remain anonymous because of the risk of retaliation for filing the suit. As my forthcoming book will document in great detail, that fear is well-founded.

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  • Is this fight going be repeated in every single county before they stop realizing their god isn’t a get-out-of-law card in this country?

  • brucecoppola

    Well, it did and still does have secular purposes:

    1) To promote a movie.

    2) As a monument to a great film producer/director.

    See? No problem.

  • Scrutationary Archivist

    So it’s also an advertisement?

  • John Hinkle

    The school would not respond other than to Facebook something about fighting it? Seems a rather juvenile response to me. But then again, juvenile, childish, infantile, all these can describe fundie, privileged Xians.

    Oh, and cue the fund raising by the ACLJ and Thomas Moore Law Center any moment now…

  • @brucecoppola:

    Actually I was going to say that same exact thing.

  • @ZincAvenger – Every single county, every single school district, every single town. It is a horrific waste, but they all seem to think they are above the law.

  • Chiroptera

    brucecoppola, #2:

    I thought the same thing.

    But, like creationist school board members trying to promote “intelligent design,” I bet the Christianists can’t keep from opening their mouths and spilling the beans on what it really is all about.

  • Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare

    I DO wish the idiots who fight these issues could be held financially responsible for the legal costs. Here’s a place where “think of the children!” really means something, as in:

    You idiotic fundementalist fools, you’re wasting school district resources on a LOSING BATTLE. There is no way you’re going to be able to win this! If you insist on going ahead with it, YOU PAY FOR IT.

  • DaveL

    We WILL NOT remove this monument without a fight monumental waste of tax dollars !!!!!


    I also noticed this, further down on the board president’s response:

    Please be assured that we will fight this and litigate this in a professional manner and continue to challenge until we get a decision that is acceptable to all of us!!!

    Apparently “all of us” doesn’t include those students and parents who asked that the monument be taken down. But they’re totally not “outsiders, not full members of the political community.” How dare they suggest otherwise?

  • brucecoppola

    @Katherine Lorraine (etc.)

    I’m honored. Usually I’m reading your posts and thinking, damn, wish I’d said that.

  • busterggi

    Can’t they just buy a copy of the dvd and see the damned commandments at home?

  • Can we add other movie advertisements to the lawn to make it fair and secular? How about a sculpture of a naked man in a window for Monty Python’s Life of Brian?

  • @brucecoppola:

    Seems my snarkiness is good for something after all! Internet blog commentating, yay!

  • No One

    As my forthcoming book will document in great detail, that fear is well-founded.

    It’s those extremist Muslims at it again right?

  • John Hinkle “Oh, and cue the fund raising by the ACLJ and Thomas Moore Law Center any moment now…”

    It will be nice seeing them fight for Hollywood.

  • John Hinkle


    Ha ha! Excellent!

  • They have insulted the prophet Moses, peace be upon him! His honor must be defended with Molotov cocktails, Insha’Allāh.

  • chilidog99

    sheeesh, they should get rid of it just because it’s ugly.


  • dingojack

    Is the school board going to put huge ugly monuments to promote Eraserhaed and Debbie Does Dallas too?


  • Crudely Wrott

    The Ten Commandments seems to be a poorer movie each time I watch it again. Stilted dialogue, derivative content, self conscious acting.

    The defense of displaying the Ten Commandments in state and federal institutions seems to be a poorer effort each time I watch it again. Stilted dialogue, derivative content, self conscious acting.

    Gee, wonder why religious content seems to be so consistently . . . poor . . . must be built in. Somehow. Magically. Special spiritually or something like that.

  • bybelknap

    @ Wrott – that’s why I love the thing. Edward G’s “Where’s yer gawd now, Moses?!” (among other hilarious lines) is a family joke in our house for when bad shit happens. It pretty much fits a definition of high camp – extreme in a perversely sophisticated manner. It is almost Batman-like (the TV series) in its campiness.

  • jameshanley

    Someone local needs to fight back publicly by pointing out that based on the record of other schools/cities, they will lose this fight, and it will cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Accuse them publicly of being frivolous with taxpayer money, then suggest that the sculpture be donated to a local religious organization–if it helps politically, suggest some that can put the sculpture in a highly visible location.

  • jameshanley “…suggest some that can put the sculpture in a highly visible location.”

    And when that fails, suggest a not-visible location as they drag you out of the meeting.

  • jameshanley

    We can hope it’s not visible anyway.