The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, is urging an Ohio middle school to take down an unconstitutional religious display from its property.
A concerned parent recently reported to FFRF that Welty Middle School in New Philadelphia, Ohio, displays a prominent plaque featuring the Ten Commandments near its auditorium entrance.
It is well-settled law that public schools may not advance or endorse religion, FFRF reminded the district. The Supreme Court has ruled specifically that Ten Commandment displays in public school violate the Establishment Clause as its religious message is incontrovertible.
“The District’s promotion of the Judeo-Christian bible and religion over non-religion impermissibly turns any non-Christian or non-believing student, parent or staff member into an outsider,” writes FFRF Legal Fellow Chris Line to New Philadelphia City Schools. “Schoolchildren already feel significant pressure to conform from their peers. They must not be subjected to similar pressure from their school, especially on religious questions.”
FFRF is asking the district to promptly remove the Ten Commandments display to comply with constitutional dictates, and to maintain an environment where all students, regardless of religious beliefs (or nonbeliefs) feel welcome.
"The First Commandment alone is reason why public schools may not endorse the Commandments," says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Students in our public schools are free to have any god they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all! In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the First Commandment."
FFRF recently prevailed against two Pennsylvania school districts that hosted Ten Commandments monuments. Most recently, FFRF v. New Kensington-Arnold Sch. Dist. was settled in 2017 with the removal of the monument and attorneys fees costing the district in excess of $163,000.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 800 members in Ohio and a chapter 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.