Connellsville, Pennsylvania — A Pennsylvania group is standing its ground against atheist demands to remove a Ten Commandments at a local junior high school.
Thou Shall Not Move, led by Pastor Ewing Marietta of Liberty Baptist Church, was founded as an effort to help support the Connellsville School District after it was sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) last year over a Ten Commandments monument on school property. As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based atheist group filed the lawsuit against the district on behalf of a woman and her daughter who claim that they are disturbed by the monument’s presence.
The statue, which was donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1957, includes the figure of an eagle along with an American flag, two stars of David and an inscription of the Ten Commandments. The organization gifted similar monuments to a number of school districts across the country in hopes that they would “provide troubled youth with a common code of conduct to govern their actions.”
Since the challenge was filed, members of the community have rallied around the monument, posting signs in their yard to display their support and hosting gatherings as a show of solidarity.
“My phone is ringing off the hook with people that want to fight this,” school board President Jon Detwiler told reporters in September when the fight began. “It’s not really the worst thing in the world to have our kids reading.”
Now, Thou Shall Not Move is raising funds for the district’s legal costs, and is working to erect Ten Commandments monuments all throughout the city. The group has been selling yard signs with the Ten Commandments printed on them to area residents and is using the money to help fund the fight. Approximately 4,500 signs have been sold and are staked in the ground by residents throughout the city.
Last week, Thou Shall Not Move held an event to honor the Fayetteville County Commissioners that have been supportive of the monument at Connellsville Junior High School.
“They took a stand and named the Ten Commandments monument an historic landmark,” Marietta told reporters. They’ve done a bang-up job.”
Chairman Al Ambrosini, Vice Chairman Vince Zapotosky and secretary Angela M. Zimmerlink were all present at the event.
“Nothing can be accomplished unless we all work together,” Zimmerlink told the gathering. “It only takes a small group of people with keen minds who keep on moving forward. You cannot give up, because that’s what they want.”
Reports state that Marietta plans to ask the district to offer a Bible class as an elective for students when the board meets next month. He continues to forge ahead in his efforts to protect the monument.
“It’s just the principle of the thing that someone can come in and say something offends them and then have it moved,” Marietta told the Pittsburgh Tribune. “We need to continue to stand with this.”
In the meantime, FFRF is moving forward with its lawsuit.
“[Plaintiffs] contend that a public school district has no right to instruct its captive audience of impressionable students on which god to have, how many gods to have, or whether to have any gods at all,” FFRF argued in its initial legal complaint filed last year.
The district has boarded up the monument, which sits outside of the middle school auditorium, until the matter is resolved. It used to be shrouded with plastic garbage bags, but area residents tore off the covering in protest.