Judge refuses to dismiss Ten Commandments case
By Liz Hayes
Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
A federal judge will allow the lawsuit against New Kensington-Arnold School District's Ten Commandments monument to proceed.
Attorneys representing the district had asked U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry to dismiss the lawsuit filed in September by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and two district families.
McVerry on Tuesday denied the district's request, indicating the case has “sufficient merit” to proceed to the discovery phase, during which both sides exchange information and establish facts.
The plaintiffs, represented by Pittsburgh attorney Marcus B. Schneider, argue the large stone monument in front of Valley High School is a violation of the First Amendment's prohibition on government endorsing a religion, which is known as the Establishment Clause.
The foundation first objected to the monument last spring. When the district did not respond to its request to remove the Decalogue, the foundation, joined by two local families, sued for its removal.
The district's position is that the monument, donated by the New Kensington branch of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in the late 1950s in connection with the release of “The Ten Commandments” movie, is a historic landmark with secular components that should be allowed to remain.
Through its attorneys, Amie A. Thompson and Anthony G. Sanchez, the district in November asked McVerry to dismiss the case.
They claimed the plaintiffs failed to establish an argument proving the monument was a violation of the Establishment Clause.
The school district also alleged the lawsuit could be resolved by the 2005 case of Van Orden versus Perry, in which the Supreme Court permitted a monument nearly identical to New Kensington's Decalogue to remain on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol building.
The plaintiffs countered that the district's reliance on the Van Orden case did not address all of the nuances of the New Kensington case.
They also argued that, given the complexity of and varied rulings in Establishment Clause cases, this case warranted legal review.
“Establishment Clause challenges are all unique and driven by the particular facts of the case,” McVerry wrote in Tuesday's order. “(Through the discovery phase), the parties will have ample opportunity to build a sufficient factual record that permits this Court to meaningfully apply the decisional law to this difficult, context-driven task.”
Lawyers from both sides did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
McVerry gave the district until Feb. 5 to respond to the plaintiffs' original complaint.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- A-K Valley students offer Franklin Regional ‘strong’ support
- Bronze flower vases stolen from Lower Burrell cemetery
- Leechburg adds 2 part-time police officers
- Experts: Cold weather requires A-K Valley residents to check gardens
- Burrell school board reviews security plan
- Agreement nears on Springdale police chief’s duties
- Arnold teen back home, but some A-K Valley missing-person cases decades old
- Peregrine falcons hang around Tarentum Bridge
- Gilpin looks for supervisor, hires police consultant
- Cheswick fire truck to arrive in June
- Highlands school board won’t raise taxes