A Ten Commandments plaque has been removed from Murphy Park in Steubenville, Ohio, after a national state/church watchdog sent a letter to the city asking for the religious display to move to private property.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation contacted City Manager Jim Mavromatis on Aug. 10 after receiving a complaint from a concerned Steubenville resident who objected to the Ten Commandments display and its placement on government property. The complainant has subsequently reported that the plaque has been moved across the street to church property.
The appearance of this religious message in a public space, FFRF pointed out, violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause by displaying government preference for religion.
“Given the content of the display, and the fact that the Ten Commandments originally appeared as a lone display, a reasonable observer would view it as an endorsement of religion by the City,” writes FFRF’s Senior Counsel Patrick Elliott.
Additionally, it is unnecessarily divisive to place religious monuments in community spaces, making non-Christian and non-religious citizens feel like outsiders in their own community.
“The First Commandment alone makes it obvious why the Ten Commandments should not be posted on government property,” Elliott continues. “The government has no business telling citizens which god they must have, how many gods they must have, or that they must have any god at all.”
Mavromatis announced at an Aug. 14 City Council meeting that the plaque would be moved, thanks to FFRF’s letter.
“Mavromatis reported the city will have to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from Murphy Field as a result of a warning letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis.,” according to a Herald-Star story.
“We commend the city for taking swift action to correct this violation,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Removing the bible plaque ensures that Murphy Park can be a welcoming space to all citizens.”
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across the country with members across the country, including more than 800 members in Ohio. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.