Citizens group keeping Connellsville Ten Commandments issue alive
A Connellsville group fighting to keep a Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Junior High School is continuing its efforts to keep the momentum of public support going.
Organizers recently took steps to officially take a name — Thou Shall Not Move.
The group began meeting after the Freedom From Religion Foundation and an anonymous parent and student filed a federal lawsuit claiming constitutional violations arising from the religious marker that has been located at the junior high school for more than 50 years.
The group has been selling Ten Commandments signs which residents and local businesses have been placing on their properties.
In fact, nearly 2,000 yard signs have been sold, said Pastor Ewing Marietta of the Liberty Baptist Church, an organizer for Thou Shall Not Move.
Marietta said some of the proceeds from the sale of the signs will go toward the purchase of larger, permanent granite Ten Commandments monuments outside of local churches.
Marietta said organizations are also reaching out to the New Kensington community. A lawsuit has also been filed against the New Kensington-Arnold School District, which has the Ten Commandments monument outside of a high school.
The group recently started an open Facebook page entitled “Save Connellsville 10 Commandments,” which had around 1,300 members within the first couple of days of its creation.
“We decided some time ago to put a new page out, pass out information to a broader spectrum,” said Marietta.
The efforts, Marietta said, have worked.
“This is getting bigger than Connellsville,” he said.
Through Facebook, Marietta has been in touch with people in Texas and Tennessee wanting to share similar stories from their towns and wanting to get involved to help Connellsville. “A lot of places are looking at Connellsville now to see what we will do.”
Teri Hirko of Connellsville is one of the administrators of the Facebook page.
“It's great,” she said. “I really don't know anyone who's not in support of this.”
Hirko said she even has atheist friends who don't want to see the monument removed from the school grounds because they, like her, believe it's not hurting anyone.
“Obviously, nobody is being forced to look at it,” Hirko said. “If you do look at it, you do so of your own free will.”
The group will be spreading its message when it participates in Connellsville's Halloween parade at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The group will be marching alongside the Ten Commandments float built by a couple from Paradise United Methodist Church. The float appeared in the Mt. Pleasant Glass and Ethnic Festival in September.
Along with the float, Marietta said members will be passing out more than 5,500 Ten Commandments book covers.
“It does provide an opportunity to take part because of what's going on and share with people these wonderful book covers and do something a little bit different — shine a little light on the subject as well,” Marietta said.
The book covers will also be handed out during a rally/meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Connellsville Eagles.
The Eagles donated the Ten Commandment monument back in 1957. The monument in New Kensington area was also donated by the Eagles.
Marietta said the rally will be short and it will be used as an opportunity to set a new date and time for weekly rallies/meetings.
“This is going to be a long fight,” Marietta said.
The Ten Commandments monument at the junior high remains covered in plywood.
Marietta is urging no one remove the covering.
“We encourage people to leave it alone,” he said. “Let the district do what's necessary. We're supporting our school board, thankful they're doing what they can. We're thankful for them and the school.”
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.