Valley High School’s Ten Commandments Monument Needs to Be Removed March 22, 2012

Valley High School’s Ten Commandments Monument Needs to Be Removed

How would you like to see this when you walk into your public high school every day?

That’s the Ten Commandments monument sitting outside Valley High School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (not far from Pittsburgh).

How does that even *happen*?! (Won’t someone think of the lawsuits?!)

The Freedom From Religious Foundation is — They sent a letter (PDF) to the district’s superintendent on Tuesday telling him to remove the monument immediately:

In addition to the unconstitutional purpose, prominent placement of the Ten Commandments monument at the school constitutes an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, in this case, the religious edicts of Catholicism. Any student will view a permanent 6-foot tall monument in front of the school entrance as being stamped with the district’s approval

This is a particularly egregious violation so please inform us at your earliest convenience in writing of your plan to rectify this matter and the date at which you plan to remove this unconstitutional monument. We look forward to an immediate reply.

The FFRF letters points to court case after court case in which Ten Commandments monuments on public property were found to be illegal — they’re definitely not allowed on public school property, so I can’t wait to see how the school plans to defend this…

The Fraternal Order of Eagles donated the monument to the school. It’s not their first time doing something like this.

Now it’s time for our side to push back.

(Thanks to Stephen for the link!)

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  • Ndonnan

    Oh dear, here we go again,remember what yesterdays post for  the reason rally, its about saving people from all the abuse and trauma in the world,thats great,we all agree,but move on from the petty drama queen antics,your trying to raise your profile in a friendly,helpful,positive way.This wont cut it guys.

  • Wow not even remotely legal. If the school department is stupid enough to bring this to court, the judge will most likely grant the FFRF’s request for summary judgment…the judge won’t even hold a trial.

  • What are you talking about?

  • Marguerite

    I take it this monument is recent, and can’t hide behind the “history” excuse of the banner? It astounds me that stuff like this gets put up, and parents don’t even complain. As I said before, I wasn’t thrilled (even as a Lutheran, which I was at the time) when my local school system put up “In God We Trust” signs in the wake of 9/11. I didn’t complain because it’s hard to argue the national motto, unfortunately. But the Ten Commandments? On public land? That’s is indeed egregious.

  • Marguerite

    You think objecting to the raising of religious monuments on public land is a petty concern? That just goes to show how much more consciousness-raising remains to be done, doesn’t it?

  • Actually, I’m trying to get people to realize that Christian privilege is illegal and unconstitutional. This will totally cut it.

  • Ggsillars

    If this monument has the same positive, uplifting effect on Valley High students that the prayer banner had on Cranston High School West students (i.e., none), we can expect another nasty fight from people who care everything about symbols and nothing about ideas.

  • This is not petty. No Government body can endorse any particular religion. It is illegal and discriminatory. It eats away at the rights of ALL people. By defending the law, and taking this obviously illegal sculpture down, ALL people are being defended.

  • Gunstargreen

    Pennsylvania is just as bad as most of the south these days. I feel like I’m constantly fighting for the first amendment in letters to my local paper.

  • You know what won’t cut it? Telling us to be good little minorities, turn our heads down and keep our mouths shut while the “Real Americans” are doing things.

  • Drew

    If you think that the ongoing endorsement of religion isn’t a serious problem, you haven’t yet begun to understand secularism.

  • Wow.  It is just there, alone.  Not even an attempt to mix it with secular or historic documents.  There is no excuse for this display, no matter how long it has been on the school property. 

  • Yamil Baez

    Is there more information regarding this donation in terms of how long ago it was done and why to this particular high school?  I agree that this is not a petty matter and in fact provides a rather tangible way to have meaningful discussions regarding our country.

  • John

    Wow.  This is in the area where I grew up.  Didn’t go to Valley.  Be interesting to see how this one goes. 

  • Xeon2000

    Please kindly fuck off. Thank you.

  • The Militant One

    Pennsylvania was once described by a former governor as “Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between”. Most of rural PA comfortably fits the stereotype of the “god ‘n’ guns” redneck mentality.

  • atoswald

    I just don’t understand why these people insist on wasting money. I am sure they are aware of the legal lines that have been crossed. If they truly wanted to help this school, the money could have gone to the upkeep or improvement of athletic or music equipment … every school can use and appreciate that. If this was all about the damned monument, donate it to a private school or a church.

  • They’reAllTheSame

    How long before this “attack on christianity ” is covered on faux new?? I know that some of these cases seem controversial, key word : seem

    How do people still not understand the blatant constitution violation at hand in a case such as this? The ignorance level of people that see this as a religious attack and simultaneously “love” our constitution is flat out infuriating.

  • Frothsloth

    There’s another FOE Ten Commandments monument in Allegheny County’s South Park. 

  • Annie

    On the website for the school, the principal writes, “We continue to evolve as a school, serving the diverse communities of
    Arnold and New Kensington. We strive to keep our rich traditions alive
    and look to foster and enhance an equally rich learning environment.”

    I was excited when I read they continue to evolve as a school, as surely that means they would want to change to welcome all students… but then I got to the “rich traditions” part… rarely a good sign.

  • dauntless

    This is true. I am currently attending a university in central Pennsylvania and I am constantly appalled at how these kinds of stories pop up all over the state. You would think that things would have changed after the Dover ordeal, but this stuff still happens.

    Hopefully the threat will be enough to wake up the school board, but instead of case files, the FFRF should have sent election numbers. The fact that every schoolboard member in Dover who supported creationism lost their seat due to losing so much taxpayer money should be a motivating factor to any schoolboard. If officials feel that defending their religion takes a higher priority than spending taxpayer money legally and responsibly, they get the axe, even (or especially?) within conservative communities.

  • The Captain

    Every time I end up in rural PA I get blown away at the amount of Rebel Flags I see from people who have lived there for generations. It’s just so much stupid it hurts.

  • The Captain

    Yes, upholding the constitution is “petty drama queen antics”. 

  • Justin Miyundees

    The chorus is “no one’s forcing anyone to look at it”.  The “let’s just roll over and take it” verses doesn’t come until the third act but thanks for cranking up the bandwagon early.

  • Rwlawoffice

    The posting of the Ten Commandments has not always been seen by the courts as a violation of the constitution. So this is not a clear cut violation.  

  • BenFromCA

    Tradition is nothing more than institutionalized ignorance.

  • Wow, I used to live not far from there, and i never saw that plaque.  Can it be seen from the street?

    I hope you get it removed.

  •  The “history” excuse wouldn’t even apply here. First of all, “history” was not even a dispositive qualification in the Van Orden decision…the Court took the history of the monument into consideration, but this could not in and of itself uphold its constitutionality. Justice Breyer, in his plurality opinion (which determined the outcome of Van Orden), made a list of all the qualities that taken together upheld that specific monument. One of these was the fact that this monument was surrounded by other, non-religious monuments accepted by the State of Texas on a religion-neutral basis contributed by organizations that had long-standing ties with the state, and that the monument makes it clear who was the donating party.

    Van Orden also explicitly mentions that such “precedent” (as a plurality opinion its precedential value is scant) would never be applicable in a public school, which has a different and much stricter Establishment Clause standard.

    The fact that Cranston relied on Van Orden EXCLUSIVELY as the sole precedent in their favor showed the weakeness of their case.

  •  The letter from FFRF discussed this very point.  “Although the Supreme Court allowed a long-standing Ten Commandments monument on government property in one unique context, the Court made clear that such displays in public schools are
    unconstitutional.”   This at public school.  Therefore, it is unconstitutional.  It is clear cut.

  • Marguerite

    I wasn’t trying to suggest that “historical value” constituted a valid legal exception, but it was certainly one of the arguments put forward by the advocates of the prayer banner. But if I’m reading this correctly, this isn’t even “historical”– it appears to be fairly recent. How is it that at least a few parents don’t take it upon themselves to complain when this sort of thing is erected? I certainly would.

  • Rwlawoffice

     I am sure you are refering to the Stone case that dealt with the Ten Commandments inside of classrooms.  Whether that will be followed here not so clear cut in light of the more recent rulings.

  • Autumn

    I saw “Valley High” and all I could think was, “Goooooooo Bayside!”

  • Tony

    You’ve got that right.  I won’t be surprised if our legislature adopts “Onward Christian Soldiers” as our state song.

  • Ndonnan

    On issues like this,you pretty well sum up how most people would feel David.

  • Ndonnan

    Said so politely Mr X,though to quote the bible,”Go forth and multiply”, yourself.

  • Ndonnan

    Secularism will only take man back to his most basic level,that of self.Thats why the teachings of Jesus were and still are so radical,they are at odds with mans natural instinct,that of self preservation.The 10 commandments that atheism finds so offensive ,though instilled in most cultures as a basic set of standards,are a challenge to what most people would rather do,and that is do what is good for me.

  • Wow, if that’s what you think the bible is about, you’d really love Buddhism.   Do some comparative religion study – the Jesus character is in no way unique.

  • Here’s a link to a local newspaper article about it.  Apparently this was given to the school over 10 years ago.  The article is not exact.

    I grew up across the river from this school.  I hope the people in charge are smart enough to not waste the public’s money on a law suit.  That area really can’t afford to have less money available for education.

  • The letter from FFRF (linked in the main post) refers to Van Orden v. Perry, which is the one decision that allowed the ten commandments to remain on government land in Austin TX.  In this decision, Justice Breyer stated it was ok because “The [Austin] display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.”  That seem pretty clear to me.  Public School.  No Commandments allowed.

  • The School Superintendent is “unhappy” and meeting behind closed doors to decide how to respond, according to the local press. 

  • Juliabvbuv

    Email and ask them to remove it

  • While we’re passing out free advice here, I have some for you.  You would do well to learn how to construct a complete sentence, including correct grammar and spelling.  We all make mistakes, but I can’t recall a single message from you that isn’t riddled with errors.  I know it’s petty, and I don’t usually bother being grammar cop, but I figure it’s about on par with your advice.

  • On the contrary, Christians think ‘man’ was made in God’s image, and has a special chosen role.

    Secularism recognize that we are just one of many thousands of species, on just one rather smallish planet around one very regular  star in the outer reaches of yet an other of countless trillions of galaxies.

    Humans are a social species, and as such have evolved social rules.  Humans who are only out for themselves are sociopaths, and don’t tend to do well, no matter what their religious beliefs are.

  • What about Van Orden v. Perry

    This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible.  The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of
    the young, government must exercise particular care in  separating church and state.

  • guest

    I doubt the kids that go to that school ever thought about what was there at all until someone decided it ‘had to go’  While I don’t agree these things should be put up, if it’s already been there 10 years I don’t think  anyone should be throwing a fit about it coming down now, unless they are willing to pay for the expense of having it moved.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Regardless of whether you belief that we are one of many and are the same as all other animals on the planet, in the end it just comes down to self.  Even the evolutionary explanations of why we are social are based upon self preservation.  

  • TiltedHorizon

    Getting into heaven, avoiding hell, this means doing “good” in Christian terms is based upon self preservation and self interest. 

    If this was not the case, there would not be a need to define what punishments and rewards await your eternal soul in the bible. It would simply be enough to say, do so because god says it is right. 

  • No, evolution is about success of the gene, not success of the individual.  Even if I have no kids, my genes survive if I help my sister’s children survive to have children of their own.

  • TCC

    There is no reason why we need religion or “a higher power” to rise above evolutionary instincts. I welcome any argument to that effect, as I have never seen a cogent one made about religion and morality.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Sorry but salvation in the Christian faith is not based at all upon works.  It is based upon belief.  Works do nothing for you so that is not the motivation at all.   Actually your last statement is closer to being correct.  We are taught not to sin in order that we may become more like Christ, not because we will be rewarded with salvation, so it really is like do it because God said it was the right thing to do.

  • Rwlawoffice

    So based upon evolution you are motivated to protect your sister to preserve your genes.  Same self preservation.

  • TiltedHorizon

     “Sorry but salvation in the Christian faith is not based at all upon
    works.  It is based upon belief. ”

    Sorry, but yes it is. The bible clearly defined works to avoid.

    If it is purely based on belief then, for example, those who are homosexual can remain homosexual, as long as they believe in god.

    If works have no bearing, then any action is permissible, as long as one is truly sorry on their deathbed. 

  • Rwlawoffice

    You need to read Ephesians and Romans. These books clearly teach that we are saved by grace through faith and our works have nothing to do with it and are of no help. You are talking about sanctification not salvation . You are correct, if a homosexual is a believer he will have eternal life regardless of engaging in what the bible refers to as a sinful lifestyle.   being sorry on your deathbed will not cut it.  It is all about belief in Christ and accepting what he did on your behalf.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “You need to read Ephesians and Romans.”

    I have, twice and in context with the whole bible. I can try a third but I warn you, each pass I make seems to make me more certain I am right. 🙂

    “being sorry on your deathbed will not cut it.”

    Yet in Luke, the malefactors crucified next to Jesus, one of them is saved on his ‘deathbed’ after asking for forgiveness. (Being sorry)

    Luke 23:43 (KJV)

    And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

    So if you agree that a homosexual will not be denied, assuming they accept Christ, then why all the hullabaloo against it?

  • Ndonnan

    why all the hallabaloo about murder and pedaphillia for that matter???

  • Ndonnan

    like i said petty people,you might be amazing with words and perfect grammer,but yep the reasoning and logic is like my spelling.In my job its not a required skill,but im working on it

  • TheBirdWatcher

    Hemant…I believe you are faking…would you be willing to take a lie detector test confirming that you are an Atheist…I can’t wait to see you fail the test.

  • Rwlawoffice

    If you read Ephesians 2:6 then you read that we are saved by grace through faith and not be good works.  If you read Romans 4 you saw the same thing argued in the context of Abraham. 
    Do you disagree with that?

    As for the thief on the cross, he did not just  say he was sorry he accepted who Christ was and believed in him when he said, christ was without sin.  

    As for homosexuality, it will not stop a believer from salvation but it is still a moral sin in the Bible  just like other sins.

  • Mr. Massery…I believe you are faking…would you be willing to take a lie detector test confirming you watch birds…I can’t wait to see you fail the test.

  • Another article gives a more precise date of 1957.

    Indeed 55 years is “more than a decade ago”, and even before the supreme court ruled on this issue which may at least partially excuse when they did it in the first place since it wasn’t so clearly illegal then.

    And it looks like the christards running the school are up for a fight. That’s ok, our side always enjoys an easy win. Too bad for the kids who’s school is going too lose a load of money, or the local residents who’s taxes will be raised to pay the lawyers.  It seems to be a pattern1) School does something illegal
    2) School board refuses to make it right (with local residents support)
    3) They get sued, and lose a butt-load of money
    4) Local residents are angry at the school board for wasting their money (raising their taxes), and vote them out next chance they get.
    They never seem to learn that angry mobs just aren’t very clever.

  • Queenpcf

    I am going to chime in since I live in this city and my kids all went to Valley HighSchool. The statue was donated over 57 years ago. It is not near the main entrance of the school. In fact most kids didnt really  even know it was there . At the time this community was largley made up of italian immigrants and so I am sure the gift so long ago over 57 years ago, most likely was very meaniful back then when there was prayer in school and you said the pledge of alligiance things like that. I understand the seperation of church and state and so I get it that we can no longer have prayer in school or show favortism to religion.  What I don’t get is this need of atheist backed organizations to go from school to school and remove artwork that is a part of an historical moment in time when 60 years ago you did have prayer in school or that was when the school was built. These artists took pride in their work. Why do we have to appreciate so much history in museums and behind glass walls. Cant we just appreciate it for what it is, a part of hisory for how things were at schools back in the old days/  Are we so insecure in our beliefs we have to rip into others. If you are secure with your beliefs in atheism or what ever you believe in jewish muslim anything cant you just appreciate the beauty of the statue.  Both my daughter and my sons best friends are atheists. One was the valedictorian at Valley HighSchool one was the President of Valley HighSchool. Neither one felt intimidated or threatened to walk the HighSchool or felt like Valley chose Christianity as their primary belief system. If anything it was the opposite Religion wasn’t really  talked about in that way. Everyone knows the statue was something donated so long ago. Nobody here feels the need to destroy the property because there is no problem.  Again this is not near the entrance like the article states but near the entrance to the gym and nothing is in the school to promote this. Again I ask you guys why are you so threatend by the 10 commandments statue. Are people demanding it be removed because it is hurtful to them in some way do they feel threatened in some way or are they doing it because they can. Hm….. Pretty Sad

  • TiltedHorizon

    Because murder and pedophilia are actual crimes. Just because you think homosexuality is a crime, as evidenced by your willingness to relate it, does not make it so.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Ok. I stand corrected… therefore if works have no bearing, then any action is permissible, as long as one is truly sorry AND “accepts Christ” on their deathbed.

    Yet in Matthew 7:21 ESV Jesus clearly states:

    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

    There is no mention of faith, only abiding by the will of the Father, in context this applies to the “Golden Rule” Matthew 7:12-13 ESV. That is “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. Which applies to social behavior and welfare, meaning ‘works’ is included. Seems its not good enough to just have ‘faith’.

  • Barbredin


  • Delfield

     Thank you for the local view Queenpcf.  I agree.  This seems a lot of energy to spend on a monument that stands in front of one of the side entrances and was put in place with the best of intentions 57 years ago.

  • Aklcmarie

    I live in the district as well… If you can appreciate this “work of art” at a public school then you can certainly appreciate it in an appropriate place that isn’t funded with tax dollars. Thank you.

  • PA Year of the Bible

    If you live in the district, it is important for you to help find a student there (either in the high school or middle school) who is willing to be a plaintiff (can be a “John Doe” anonymous plaintiff), and have them contact FFRF promptly.

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