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Grass-roots bid to save Ten Commandments monument gains steam

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

The Rev. Ewing Marietta distributed gold-embossed Ten Commandments documents and book covers on Wednesday night at the Connellsville Eagles where members of Thou Shall Not Move, a newly named group fighting to keep a Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Junior High School, gathered just before they spread their message to the public as they marched alongside a float in the city's Halloween parade.

“I wanted to make sure that you received the documents and book covers that were donated to us by the Family Research Council, based in Washington, D.C.,” Ewing said. “I want you to take as many as you think you will need to keep our cause going and get the word out to the public and in our local schools. We're going to be distributing about 5,500 Ten Commandments book covers during the parade.”

Marietta, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in North Union Township, and about 10 members of the organization announced that a second organizational meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Connellsville Eagles, the organization that donated the Ten Commandment monument to the Connellsville School District back in 1957.

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.

Marietta said the group has been selling Ten Commandment signs that residents and local businesses have been placing on their properties.

As of Wednesday, Marietta estimated that about 2,100 yard signs have been sold.

“We already have almost $7,000 in a bank account earmarked for saving the monument,” Marietta said. “We sold 2,100 signs at $3 each for about $6,300, and we received another $600 in donations.”

A second bank account designated for legal fees to pay attorneys to help the group keep the Ten Commandments monument at the junior high school has an estimated $3,200, said Gary Colatch, one of the original group members.

Marietta said some of the proceeds from the sale of the signs will go toward the purchase of larger, permanent granite Ten Commandments monuments that will be erected outside local churches.

The organization is also reaching out to the New Kensington community, Marietta said. Another lawsuit has been filed against the New Kensington-Arnold School District, which has a Ten Commandments monument outside a high school.

The group also created an open Facebook page titled, “Save Connellsville's 10 Commandments,” which had about 1,300 members several days after it began.

Through Facebook, Marietta said, he has been in touch with people in Texas and Tennessee who wanted to share similar stories from their towns and get involved in Connellsville's fight.

“I think it would be great if the little town of Connellsville could stop this organization (Freedom From Religion Foundation) and win,” Colatch said. “This little town could teach them a lesson.”

Colatch said he believes the Ten Commandments monument legal battle has been positive for the Connellsville community.

“It was actually a wonderful thing,” he said. “My children attend a Catholic school, but they didn't know a lot about the Ten Commandments until this fight began. The monument sat in relative obscurity until now. Most of the people in Connellsville didn't even realize it was there. But now everyone knows about the monument. This legal fight brought the Ten Commandments out in the light.”

Cindy Ekas is a freelance writer.

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