What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 8, 2012

More On Connellsville's Ten Commandments Monument

The case is proceeding. From the Union Herald:
The display of a Ten Commandments monument donated 55 years ago outside one of its schools is not an endorsement of religion by the Connellsville Area School District, an attorney argued Monday in court filings.

“Considering the ‘history and ubiquity’ of this Eagles’ Ten Commandments monument, and assessing how a reasonable person would view it, it is clear that the monument does not convey a message of endorsement of religion. (T)he monument contains both religious and secular symbols, including an all-seeing eye, a bald eagle and the American flag. Even if the religions aspects of the monument’s appearance and history indicate that it has some religious meaning, the district is not bound to display only symbols that are wholly secular, or to convey solely secular messages,” attorney John W. Smart wrote in a court filing requesting a dismissal of the lawsuit filed against the district.
The attorney for the Connellsville School District, John W. Smart, filed a Motion to Dismiss the case and a Brief in Support of the Motion - I am reading them now.  I downloaded it from the PACER system available to anyone who registers for an account.  There's a small downloading fee involved so I am unsure as to whether I can post the brief.  If there are ANY ATTORNEYS out there who can offer up some guidance, please get in contact with me.

At this initial reading it looks like Smart is trying to establish that the Connellsville monument allowable under the Constitution because on page 28 it reads:
Considering the “history and ubiquity” of this Eagles’ Ten Commandments monument, and assessing how a reasonable person would view it, it is clear that the monument does not convey a message of endorsement of religion..
And on page 29 there's this:
The District has displayed the monument outside of the Connellsville Junior High School for at least fifty-five years. The location and presence for so many years, emphasizes the perception by most that the monument has an overall secular purpose. The monument conveys a historical and moral message, not a promotion of religious faith.
I am not sure, however, how a monument that begins with the text:
the Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God.

I Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

II Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

III Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Is anything but an endorsement of religion and a promotion of religious faith.

As I am preparing to discuss this as part of the Center for Inquiry's monthly lecture series, I'll be returning to this very very soon.

Just so everyone is absolutely sure, I am not an attorney, never attended law school, never sat in on a law school lecture and so on.  Any opinions I have about this are those of an average (if balding and plumpish) guy who's reading the legal texts as a non-attorney would.


SamStone said...

If they are trying to say it is not religious then their supporters are their own worst enemies. There is a Thou Shalt Not Move The Ten Commandments group lead by Pastor Ewing Marietta.

The group is now making signs that say Keep Christ in Christmas and a supporter on Facebook writes “A portion of the proceeds of the signs goes toward building new granite monuments of the Ten Commandments in the area, too. They didn't like one. Well now there are going to be a bunch of them! We've raised enough money so far to build 7 and we have a list of over 20 churches that want one. We're expecting to have the first one erected before Christmas. God is good all the time! Keeping you in our prayers and sending tons of support from here in Connellsville.”

If they can call witnesses, I would like to hear Pastor Marietta go under oath that it is has a "that the monument has an overall secular purpose ... (and is) ... not a promotion of religious faith.

Anonymous said...

The briefs are public documents. You can post from them (just cite to where the content comes from). The charge for downloading is an administrative fee, it's the same idea as a copy charge.
And yes, I'm a lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Oh I read wrong, I don't know offhand if you can post the whole brief. I thought you were asking if you could post quotes from it.

That being said, I've seen websites, including the Post-Gazette, that have posted PACER filings. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't necessarily mean it's allowed, but I'd say that if there's any risk there, it's low.

EdHeath said...

You know,having government symbols such as a flag and the bald eagle on the ten commandments monument thingie does not reassure me. Rather it strikes me it inexorably leads one to the conclusion the government does endorse Christianity. I mean, I suppose we are to think the government did not put these symbols on the monument, but the monument is on public (government) ground with the symbols, and the government has taken no action regarding the symbols or the monument. Government has an obligation to be clear about what it endorses.

kilwer said...

The comparison shopping approach.