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June 7, 2014

Ten Commandments Update - Connellsville Edition

It's been a while but what with the warmer weather and a court date approaching I am guessing there'll be more updates like this in the near future.

Though I could be wrong.

Here's the latest from the Tribune-Review:
The Thou Shall Not Move group plans to hold a Ten Commandments rally at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the covered monument located at the Connellsville Junior High School. After the rally, the group plans to attend the Connellsville Area School Board agenda session at 8 p.m. where members will present a special gift to board members for standing up to support the monument.

A court battle to remove the Ten Commandments monument from Connellsville Junior High School began more than a year ago when the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of an atheist who wanted the monument removed and the case remains in the courts.
More specifically, it's the placement of the monument at a public school that's at issue (this becomes important in a minute).

I'd like to point out some of the errors presented by the Trib.  First there's this:
[The Rev. Ewing Marietta, pastor of Liberty Church in Oliver] said the group plans to donate a Ten Commandments monument to a local city or municipality in the future.

“The courts have been on the side of municipalities in this fight,” Marietta said, adding that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Pleasant Grove, Utah in a recent Ten Commandments court case. The American Civil Liberties Union asked the courts to force the municipality to remove a Ten Commandments monument from city property.

“There have been cases where the courts ruled that municipalities could keep Ten Commandments monuments,” Marietta said. “We're hoping that happens in the Connellsville case.”
I'm sorry but the good Reverend has to do his homework better.  The case to which he's referring is Pleasant Grove v Summum which doesn't have much to do (as far as this non-attorney can see) with Ten Commandment monuments erected at public schools but with whether a municipality has to erect any permanent religious monument offered to it if it has erected others.  From the decision:
This case presents the question whether the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment entitles a private group to insist that a municipality permit it to place a permanent monument in a city park in which other donated monuments were previously erected. The Court of Appeals held that the municipality was required to accept the monument because a public park is a traditional public forum. We conclude, however, that although a park is a traditional public forum for speeches and other transitory expressive acts, the display of a permanent monument in a public park is not a form of expression to which forum analysis applies. Instead, the placement of a permanent monument in a public park is best viewed as a form of government speech and is therefore not subject to scrutiny under the Free Speech Clause. [Emphasis added.]
See that?  Nothing about removing a religious monument from a public school.  Even in the Jay Seculow of the conservative ACLJ describes it thusly:
The Court ruled in favor of Pleasant Grove unanimously. In an opinion by Justice Alito, the Court held that when it comes to displaying monuments on public lands -- a historical practice of governments since time immemorial -- the government is the speaker and has the right to “speak for itself,” “say what it wishes,” and “select the views it wants to express.” In other words, the Free Speech Clause doesn’t require the city to display Summum’s Seven Aphorisms because the city displays a Ten Commandments monument.
So the placement of the next sentence in the Trib:
The American Civil Liberties Union asked the courts to force the municipality to remove a Ten Commandments monument from city property.
Is simply incorrect - as the case was never about removing the Decalogue but forcing Pleasant Grove, Utah to accept Summum's "Seven Aphorisms" because it was already there.  Summum is the name of the church that wanted its monument in the same public park as the Ten Commandments, by the way.

That's error #1.

Here's error #2:
“If they take the Ten Commandments away from the kids in the Connellsville School District, I believe they will have no basis to give them any rules to follow,” said Tammy Marietta. “This would take away the foundation of the laws that we have.”
The Pastor's wife, unfortunately, has invalidated their entire argument right there.  If the purpose of the Ten Commandments monument at that Junior High School in Connellsville is to impose some religious instruction, then it's clearly impermissible.

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