Towns mount crusades to ‘Save Our Stone’

Two school districts and towns in Pennsylvania are aggressively fighting FFRF’s federal challenges of Ten Commandments markers at public schools. 

Marie Schaub, a New Kensington-Arnold parents who joined FFRF as a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits, reports that a “Thou Shall Not Move” movement is growing louder. “This time of year makes us feel marginalized and like second-class citizens,” she said.

Children were lined up to pull Commandments mounted on wagons as part of a “float” at New Kensington’s Christmas parade. A “Save Our Stone” rally in New Kensington organized by a man who says the United States is “Christian” led to mass distribution of “Save our Stone” lawn signs.

FFRF sued the Connellsville Area School District on Sept. 12 over an Eagles bible monument at a middle school. Two days later, FFRF sued New Kensington-Arhold School District over a 6-foot-tall bible marker in front of Valley High School.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that the Ten Commandments can’t be posted inside schools: “The preeminent 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, 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. 

The New Kensington district has asked the court to strike from the lawsuit the plaintiffs’ mention of school board President Bob Pallone’s pro-monument comments on a Facebook page, “Keep the Ten Commandments at Valley High School.” The page, which has been “liked” by about 1,200 people, including several school board members, was created last spring by New Kensington Controller John Zavadak. 

In early December, FFRF’s motion to allow pseudonyms for several plaintiffs in its New Kensington challenge was granted. A similar motion will be filed in the Connellsville case. FFRF submitted as evidence comments from Facebook posts, website comments, email and letters to the editor, which included:

• “Maybe we should get that lady‘s phone number who is (a) participant in the lawsuit and have everybody call her and give he(r) our opinion.”

• “I‘m sure if we look up the (expletive) she probably has a facebook account or a facebook page for her ridiculous group and we can slam the (expletive) out of the (expletive).”

• “Have the families involved in the lawsuit been identified? I cannot believe anyone living in the community would participate in such a worthless cause. Someone needs to send that group back to Wisconsin with several black eyes.”

• “These people need drug onto the street and shot.”

“I have been particularly alarmed by the reaction to the filing of this lawsuit by community members,” Marie Schaub, the only local plaintiff whose identity has been revealed, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I am aware of numerous hateful messages that have been posted online, either as comments to newspaper articles about the lawsuit or on social media websites.”

“The continued anonymity of my child and I is important to me because I fear that if our involvement were made public, both my child and I would experience social ostracism, harassment or threats from community members,” said the other parent suing the district, who is identified as Doe 3.

“It amazes me to see people willing to come together in order to support something that’s clearly in violation of the law,” Schaub recently told the Tribune-Review. “I would encourage our school board and community to adhere to the Constitution, which will save our district from a very expensive court case.” 

“Relocating this religious monument will not prevent anyone from practicing their faith, but it will send a message that the school district includes people of all religions — in addition to those who choose none,” Schaub added. 

Freedom From Religion Foundation