It’s been there since 1957, when it was donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. For a long time, no one did anything about it, but a few years ago, several plaintiffs filed a lawsuit to have that display removed. After two of them decided they didn’t want to participate anymore, there were only two plaintiffs left: Marie Schaub and her daughter.
The problem with the case is that neither of them were students at the school — the daughter was in eighth grade when the lawsuit was filed. So “standing” became an issue. Were they really the right people to bring forward an argument against the monument when it didn’t directly affect them?
While the Freedom From Religion Foundation said yes on their behalf, the legal system didn’t buy it. Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry sided with the District, dismissing the case on the issue of standing:
“Plaintiffs Schaub and (her unidentified daughter) … have failed to establish that they were forced to come into ‘direct, regular, and unwelcome contact with the’ Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Valley High School,” McVerry wrote in his opinion.
Furthermore, McVerry wrote that Schaub’s sense of “offense” over the monument “seems to have manifested itself only after FFRF became involved in this dispute.”
That’s obviously not true. Schaub only contacted FFRF in the first place because she saw a problem with the monument. But FFRF notes that this was not a ruling on the merits of the case:
“We are disappointed with the mistaken ruling and will discuss an appeal with our attorneys,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.
“It is troubling that judges are closing the courthouse door on plaintiffs who simply want government actors to abide by the Constitution,” said Barker.
One thing that was ignored by McVerry was the fact that Schaub “withdrew her child from the school because of the Ten Commandments Monument.” So there’s an argument to be made that they were directly affected by the monument’s existence, but that doesn’t mean an Appeals Court will agree. (It would be a lot easier if there was a student at the school willing to work with FFRF.)
You can read the judge’s dismissal ruling right here.
There’s a similar Ten Commandments case involving the nearby Connellsville Area School District, which McVerry will also be ruling on, but that decision hasn’t come out yet.
(Thanks to Brian for the link!)