Judges hear arguments in Pa. Ten Commandments challenge

NKASDPicCropA three-judge panel in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments tomorrow in a challenge to a Ten Commandments monument in front of a Pennsylvania school. The Freedom From Religion Foundation and Marie Schaub, who is a parent of a student, appealed a district court decision last year ruling they didn’t have standing to bring the case against the New Kensington-Arnold School District.

FFRF asserts that parents and students who have been impacted by the display of the Ten Commandments monument have standing to challenge it. In its brief, FFRF points out that the plaintiffs were forced either to have “contact with an unwelcome religious exercise” or assume the burden of avoiding such contact. The plaintiffs had encountered the 6-foot, 2,000-pound monolith while attending school events prior to enrollment. Schaub ultimately refused to enroll her child at the high school because of the the prominent monument in front of the school.

“Parents and students who have been injured by a school’s religious practices must have access to the courts,” said FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We look forward to this case proceeding so that the school will be welcoming to nonreligious students,” added Gaylor.

“The first commandment alone, dictating which god students must worship, is reason enough to rule that the New Kensington school district has no right to impose it on students and their parents. In our secular nation, citizens are free to have any god that they like, as many gods as they like — or none at all,” Gaylor added.

Last year, a similar federal court challenge by FFRF and local parents and students ended with a court decision in FFRF’s favor and removal of an identical Ten Commandments monument from a junior high school in nearby Connellsville Area School District. 

The argument will be before Judges Smith, Hardiman, and Schwartz in Pittsburgh. Attorney Marcus Schneider will argue the case for the plaintiffs and Attorney Charles Woodworth will represent Americans United and several religious organizations in support of the plaintiffs.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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