Ten Commandments Monument in Front of Junior High Gets Boarded Up and Removed

This is the picture of a Ten Commandments monument in front of Connellsville Junior High East in Pennsylvania — it’s been up there since the Fraternal Order of Eagles donated it in 1957:

(Evan R. Sanders – Daily Courier)

If you’re confused, it’s because the monument is now boarded up. You can thank Americans United for Separation of Church and State for that. They sent a letter to the district last month asking for the monument’s removal — another letter from FFRF followed not long after that — and the district realized they were fighting a losing battle:

The district plans to comply — a move that is unpopular but necessary to avoid a costly lawsuit…

“It’s been here since 1957, and now we have to remove it,” [Superintendent Dan] Lujetic said. “If we wanted to fight this, there’s no way we would win.”

The monument will likely be donated to a local church, which is perfectly fine by me. That’s where it should have been all along. By removing the Christian imposition at the public school, the students are getting a fantastic lesson in how the Constitution works.

It’s unfortunate that the district leaders didn’t have the foresight to do this themselves, but this is why church/state watchdog groups are so vital. They don’t care if they do something unpopular. They care about doing the right thing.

Which is more than I can say about the commenters at this news website, who don’t seem to know (or want to know) anything about why this monument and others like it have no business being on public school property.

(via Steel City Skeptics — Thanks to Kevin for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • C Peterson

    I get why monuments like this exist. We were a different country 50 years ago, going through a period of hysterical fear of communism, a period of religious revival, and still highly intolerant of any different beliefs. As you say it’s good that we now have watchdog groups chasing these cultural fossils down and eliminating them. But it isn’t these old monuments that are the real problem (although they still need to go). The scary thing is that we’re fighting schools and local governments that are still trying to put up these sorts of things today! And unlike the 1950s, where religion was seen as unifying Americans against the godless Russians, today it is being used in an attempt to bolster a failing philosophy in an increasingly diverse and often non-religious country.

  • Brian Westley

    Actually, the Fraternal Order of Eagles created a lot of these commandment monuments and gave them to schools all over the country to promote the movie “The Ten Commandments”.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I like this new look for the Ten Commandments. I can only hope it catches on.

  • Athiestbob

    Yes, we atheists are playing a game of  “whackamle”… take down one over here, and they put up one over there… TAX RELIGION OUT OF EXISTENCE NOW!

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    I’d prefer that it be auctioned off, rather than donated.  The school could get a little money back out of this, which is all to the good for the kids, and there would not be any problem of showing favoritism to the church which got the donation.

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    I’m not sure if I fault people for not removing things on their own.

    There’s a building near where I work (Crain building, southwest corner of Wacker and Michigan, if you want to come check it out) that has some beautiful carved stonework typical of buildings built about 100 years ago.  Part of this decoration is a repeated pattern of little swastikas.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/samuelnbarnett/2522488756/

    The first time I saw it I was shocked.  I wondered how anyone could work in that building or do business there.  I felt that way even though I knew the building pre-dates WW2 by at least a decade, and that the swastika was considered a good luck symbol, associated with both the Christian cross and the sun for centuries, prior to its adoption by the Nazi party.  In fact, it’s still a good luck symbol in much of the world, and is used in Asia on maps to mark Buddhist temples.

    I’m sure that if I worked in that building every day I would walk by without thinking about it.  I walked past the fountain outside our building today, and a half hour later I can’t tell you if it was running or not.  And if I worked in the high school in question, I would probably walk by without thinking about it.

    However, when it is pointed out, the proper reaction is not lamenting that it must be removed, but suddenly realizing the problem and apologizing and getting on with it.

  • A3Kr0n

    They should not be donating public property to a church.  They should auction it off.

  • Larry

    I wonder how many acts of coveting a neighbor’s ass or manservant that has prevented over the years.

  • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

    I’d love for a printout of the American Humanist Association’s “10 Commitments” to be affixed to those boards. http://khec.americanhumanist.org/the-ten-commitments/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Reading the comments on the news article was most entertaining given that about 2/3 have no clue as how separation of church and state work in this country. It was pure classic fallacious arguments– multiple appeals to tradition, the whole freedom of religion not from religion argument, the person that filed the complaint should move, the christian nation fantasy, and the bemoaning of liberal elites telling small town America what they can do.
    I love comments on general news articles they always show off an interesting side of the American collective psyche.

  • TheG

    The difference is that the swastika is used worldwide by many cultures and it is on a privately owned building.  Even if it was building where the owner made it specific that it was referring to his love of Adolf Hitler, it is still a private building.

    The Ten Commandments and crosses are used specifically by Christians and refer a specific religion.  Further, they are only public property and imply a state endorsement of that specific religion.

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    I was thinking the same thing.  Could the school donate anything else to a church?  Even though it was supposedly free 50 years ago, that doesn’t mean the school should be giving it away for free, it certainly shouldn’t be automatically assumed that it would give it to a church.  They should either put it up for auction the same way they do any other property they dispose of, or put all the names of groups that might be interested in it in a hat and randomly pick one…then the local atheist group might have a shot at getting it.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson
  • Sean Posley

    Well if they want to continue to get Federal Aid then they have to abide by the rules of what the federal government has to; not everyone, even in a small town believes in ancient religious make believe, the ten commandments hold no more relevance than the 32 rules of zombie land. Religious make believe should only be presented in a public school as study in theology.

  • Tomkat

    I think it should be kept as is-boarded up and openly viewable to the public. It would serve as a reminder that this country was once oppressed by the intolerant Christian movement that was fueled by the fear of Soviet communism. Fortunately, more and more Americans are leaving organized religion, no longer victims of mental slavery.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ray.melendez.52 Ray Melendez

    I believe in God. There are too many people turning their backs Christian beliefs. I will not be one of them. Let the world hate me too. I will die knowing God lets me live.
    From Ray Melendez III.

  • Edmond

    It’s fine if you believe in a god.  But not everyone does.  Do you believe in freedom of religion, freedom to worship?  Shouldn’t that be a decision that each person makes independently, WITHOUT their government telling them which decision to make?  Hopefully, you would agree.

    When people want to express their worship, they go to CHURCH.  They don’t go to a public school, that’s not what public schools are for.  Teachers are not clergy.  Principals are not priests.  It’s not their job to be encouraging students to pursue one religion over another.  A public school, or ANY government agency, would be stepping WAY beyond its bounds by telling students that only one religion is approved or endorsed.

  • Ray

    Is it just me, or did the article turn the comments off? I don’t see them! :(

  • Ray

    Nevermind, it works in IE. Not Iron or Firefox, but IE. *weird*

  • allein

    I can see comments…The Post-Gazette comments are through Facebook, if that makes a difference where you are (if I was at work I wouldn’t be able to see them either).

  • allein

    Although, some of these people are making me wish I couldn’t… ;)

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    It would be really funny if James Randi showed up and opened up the box to reveal that the Ten Commandments were gone and then a rabbit popped out.  :-)

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    “If we wanted to fight this, there’s no way we would win.”

    This is the payoff from all those other Ten Commandments lawsuits that were fought and won. Word is  f i n a l l y  beginning to spread that other towns and public schools have flouted the Constitution and lost, so the same fight doesn’t have to be repeated in each town ten miles down the road.

    Now we’ll enter a long period when towns and public schools with things like Ten Commandments displays on public property won’t take the initiative to remove them; they’ll just passively wait until someone brings a credible complaint, and then they’ll remove it without a fight.  It will be very unlikely that a town or school board will remove one entirely on their own volition.

    The same word-spreading effect will eventually take hold for city councils that conduct Christian-only prayers on taxpayer time, and public schools that still try to impose school-led prayer, or present religious myth as science, or try to forbid secular student clubs. We must keep patiently fighting small battle after small battle for church/state separation until people stop trying to get away with breaking the law.

  • Amakudari

    It was depressing to me. Highlights:

    “Can we just call them ‘Ten Good Rules to live by’ They don’t really ring of any one religion.” — I love this one. The first commandment is Yahweh demanding no one worship any other gods, and the last one is about not coveting your neighbor’s property, where a) that’s a thought crime and b) property includes his wife and slaves.

    “Only the first five or so commandments are any sort of ‘universal truth.’” — well, his heart’s in the right place, but I expect people to know the worship-me stuff comes first

    “Whatever happened to majority rule?”

    “Can they afford to fight MY lawsuit? She is violating my rights.”

    “wow unamerican unpatriot. hate to see what you think of the military.”

    Maybe I’m just all too familiar with these arguments.