Last month, we learned the fate of a Ten Commandments monument that had been outside Connellsville Junior High East in Pennsylvania since 1957:
You can read a longer history here, but the short version is that a judge ruled that the monument’s placement outside a public school was unconstitutional. It was an endorsement of religion, plain and simple.
However, because the student whose family filed the lawsuit no longer attended the school — that happens when these cases drag on for years — it was all moot. Therefore, there was no obligation for the Connellsville Area School District to remove the monument.
So it was an incomplete victory. On paper, church/state separation groups got everything they wanted… but nothing really changed. It would take another student (and perhaps a quicker legal process) to force the monument to come down.
That’s why I’m thrilled to see the Connellsville Area school directors do the right thing (finally). Knowing that the monument was illegal, and not wanting to go through the whole process again since the outcome is no longer in doubt, they decided to voluntarily remove the Ten Commandments from the property:
Connellsville Area school directors on Wednesday unanimously voted to return the Ten Commandments monument currently located on the grounds of the junior high school to the Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) in Connellsville.
“Nothing would preclude another student from bringing their own action at some point,” district solicitor Christopher Stern said. “It would just be a matter of time, and we can’t control what happens down the road as far as other parties.”
Board President Jon Detwiler said the board still had to determine how and when the monument will be returned to the Eagles.
Smart move. And administrators get to save face by basically telling residents, “We would love to keep the monument right where it is, but the court system and those nasty atheists are telling it we gotta move it. If not now, then later. Let’s do it on our terms instead of theirs.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is counting this as another victory, as well they should:
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said, “We’re delighted that reason will prevail and school First Amendment precedent will be followed. Returning these biblical edicts to the Eagles is the rational solution.”
The Ten Commandments should never have gone up there in the first place. It took nearly six decades later, but the law has prevailed.