Democracy Has Prevailed.

August 29, 2015

Judge: Connellsville 10 Commandments Monument is UNCONSTITUTIONAL (And Yet It Can Stay??)

Yea, it IS weird.

From Ralph Iannotti at KDKA:
A federal judge on Friday ruled that a monument of the Ten Commandments outside the Connellsville Area Junior High School in Fayette County violates the U.S. Constitution.

However, at the same time, the judge did not order the monolith removed.

Now, both opponents and supporters of the monument are claiming at least partial victories.
And some unnamed writer at the P-G:
A judge today ruled that a monument to the Ten Commandments in place at a Fayette County school since the 1950s improperly violates the Constitution because it endorses religion. But U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry said it can remain in place because the student whose family objected three years ago no longer goes to school there.
Judge McVerry?  Wasn't he the same guy who dismissed the very similar New Kensington case a short time ago?  That case was dismissed because McVerry decided the plaintiffs "lacked standing".

Here's the opinion of y'inz wanted to read it.

As far as I can tell (and let's all remember I am NOT an attorney, though I really enjoyed Housman's performance on "The Paper Chase" - even more than Pacino's in "...And Justice For All") McVerry established that the plaintiffs HAD standing to sue (whew!) and then discussed which recent Supreme Court case more closely described the Connellsville slab.

I discussed the issue here.

Since it was a stand-alone monument, it was less like the monument described in Van Orden and more like the situation described in McCreary.  Oh, I so informed you thusly.

For McVerry, the Connellsville slab fails on these grounds:
In sum, then, “the question is, would a passerby” with all of these attributes reasonably believe that by declining to remove the monument, the School District “was endorsing religion?” Although this is a close question, the Court concludes that the reasonable observer would arrive at such a conclusion. The content of the monument, its location on school grounds, the lack of secular displays in reasonable proximity to the monument, and the events leading up to the Board’s decision to retain the monument compels such a result.
Oh, I so informed you thusly.

The Ten Commandments have what our Court of Appeals has described as a “primar[ily] religious significance.” That conclusion is hard to avoid when viewing the monument here, inasmuch as it prominently proclaims, in letters slightly larger than those elsewhere on the monument , “I AM the LORD thy God .” It was thus incumbent on the School District to demonstrate that the religious nature of the monument was meant to be overshadowed by some secular or historical message. It has not done so, for the context of the monument does nothing to detract from the Commandments’ overwhelmingly religious message. Just the opposite: Displaying the Commandments alone in a prominent location outside the school only serves to highlight the religious aspects of the Commandments, sending “an unmistakable message that [the School District] supports and promotes” the religious message that is at the heart of the Commandments.
Oh, I so informed you thusly.

This leads me to the truly confusing part at the end:
When, however, our government , at whatever level, departs from mere acknowledgement of our religious history to endorsement of a particular religious message, as set forth in the Ten Commandments, it has gone too far. Be that as it may, the Court is constrained by the mootness doctrine from granting Plaintiffs’ requested injunctive relief and ordering the removal of the monument at this time.
I get the first part.  The guv'ment "has gone too far" and endorsed "a particular religious message" (which makes it UNCONSTITUTIONAL) with this slab but since the plaintiff no longer goes to school there it can nevertheless stay?

The Ten Commandments monument is UNCONSTITIONAL.  It needs to be removed.  Now.


SamStone said...

The situation provides an excellent teachable moment to the school, as they remove the monument based on the ruling. It is even stronger that they are not force to do so by the judge, but rather they should want to do so, given that it represents an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Zeus0209 said...

Something tells me the school board and community at large will collectively, nevertheless, believe that it has a stronger grasp on understanding constitutionality than any one person (including Judge CYA) or group. Then again, the strongest court in this country ruled in favor of hobby lobby, so who are we to criticize?

The slab will be snow covered once again.