What Fresh Hell Is This?

March 24, 2012

More On New Kensington's Monument

There's been more local news media coverage of the unconstitutional New Kensington Ten Commandments monument.

Nothing yet (as far as I can see) from the P-G, but the Trib's got a reporter, Michael Aubele, on the story.

Today he writes:
While separation of church and state proponents decry the existence of a Ten Commandments monument outside Valley High School, district officials are saying they won't kowtow to demands that it be removed.

That's at least not immediately. The officials said Solicitor Tony Vigilante -- who couldn't be reached for comment on Friday -- will review the issue.

"I personally believe the complaint is ludicrous," board President Bob Pallone said. "We as a district do not intend to take down the monument. We feel confident this is not a violation of church and state."
Except it is a violation.  But more of that in a second.

Aubele continues:
Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote to district officials this week, arguing the display's presence on school property violates the Constitution. The foundation wants the monument -- about 6 feet tall, standing in front of the gymnasium entrance -- taken off public land. It was given to the district in 1957 by the New Kensington Eagles club.
The school district disagrees with th FFRF.  From KDKA we read:
“The one thing that’s very, very important that people realize is that there is no way that our school district is trying to promote or impose religion on our students,” said Dr. George Batterson, the Valley School District Superintendent.
WPXI also spoke to Batterson:
“We’ve decided to take a hard line on this,” Batterson said. “We have legal counsel and we are not going to remove the Ten Commandments.”

The group claims a visiting student saw the monument and alerted them. They say it promotes religion and is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

“We don’t promote any religions or push any religions,” Batterson said. “We don’t think having the Ten Commandments monument in front of our high school is influencing them to become Christian, Jewish or any other religion.”
The Trib's coverage (perhaps due to it being a print medium rather than a broadcast medium) is by far the deepest.  There's this in support of the monument:
The Rev. Mitch Nickols, pastor at Bibleway Christian Fellowship in New Kensington, noted: "There were no tax dollars that put the monument there. If (the commandments) can be displayed in a courtroom or at a state capitol, there's no reason why that shouldn't be allowed there when it was presented by a non-school group."

Nickols said he understands the concern non-Christians might have but argued the display isn't meant to discriminate.

Monsignor Michael J. Begolly, pastor of Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church in New Kensington doesn't see a problem, either.

"Simply having the Ten Commandments on a monument ... you're not proselytizing, not trying to convert or force your beliefs on someone," Begolly said. "It's simply a statement of the values most in our society accept.
Really? Let's take a look at what's on the monument:
the Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God.

I Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
II Though shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
III Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
IV Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
V Thou shall not kill.
VI Thou shall not commit adultery.
VII Thall shalt not steal.
VIII Thall shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
IX. Thall shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.
X Thall shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, his manservant, nor is maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
Do I need to point out, again, that there isn't just one version of the Decalogue?  Aubele covers this:
Rabbi Yaier Lehrer of the Adat Shalom Synagogue in Indiana Township said one of the problem's (sic) with the monument is that it displays the Roman Catholic version of the Ten Commandments.

"There are several versions of the Ten Commandments, and that is part of the problem," he said. "Once you start picking and choosing which version is appropriate for students, you already are making a statement.
This part is true.  You can verify the list above with this page from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.

But beyond that, how can the good Monsignor, or the superintendent, honestly assert that a monument on public school grounds that clearly states "I am THE LORD thy God" and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." NOT forcing a particular set of religious ideas on public school students?

In the letter sent to the New Kensington-Arnold School district, Patrick Elliot of the FFRF referenced Stone v Graham, a US Supreme Court case from more than 30 years ago that stated:
The pre-eminent purpose of posting the Ten Commandments, which do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, is plainly religious in nature, and the posting serves no constitutional educational function.
The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, 3 and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact. The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters, such as honoring one's parents, killing or murder, adultery, stealing, false witness, and covetousness. See Exodus 20: 12-17; Deuteronomy 5: 16-21. Rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord's name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day. See Exodus 20: 1-11; Deuteronomy 5: 6-15.
Having a Ten Commandments monument on public school grounds violates the Constitution.  The state has no authority to impose any plainly religious idea onto any citizen.  It's immaterial that the monument wasn't paid for by public funds or the people challenging the monument are from out of state.  This is about religious freedom - for everybody.  Not just for those who follow one particular religion.

The monument needs to be moved.


SamStone said...

Great analysis. I would almost believe the critics if they said: "It can stay or go. No big deal either way". Instead they say it represents values that all students should accept. And that is not proselytizing?

Marie Schaub said...

Thank you for your support.

Marie Schaub said...

Thank you for your support.