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Connellsville group urges school district to continue Ten Commandments fight

Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier - Dennis McKendry (left) and LouAnn Hileman, give Christopher Stern, solicitor for the Connellsville Area School District, a check for $5,477.63 raised by the Thou Shall Not Move movement. The presentation was made durning a school board meeting at the Connellsville Area High School on Monday, June 9, 2014.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier</em></div>Dennis McKendry (left) and LouAnn Hileman, give Christopher Stern, solicitor for the Connellsville Area School District, a check for  $5,477.63 raised by the Thou Shall Not Move movement. The presentation was made durning a school board meeting at the Connellsville Area High School on Monday, June 9, 2014.
Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier - The Rev. Ewing Marietta (left), leader of the Thou Shall Not Move movement, prays at a rally to keep the Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Junior High School. The rally was held Monday, June 9, 2014, before the Connellsville Area School Board meeting.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Celeste Van Kirk | Daily Courier</em></div>The Rev. Ewing Marietta (left), leader of the Thou Shall Not Move movement, prays at a rally to keep the Ten Commandments monument  at Connellsville Junior High School. The rally was held Monday, June 9, 2014, before the Connellsville Area School Board meeting.

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Meeting set

Connellsville Area School Board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. June 26 to discuss and adopt the district's final budget for 2014-15.

The $71.9 million tentative budget was passed in late May and had a $3.5 million deficit that could require a 3.1 percent increase in real estate taxes unless spending is cut before the final budget is passed.

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Monday, June 9, 2014, 11:27 p.m.
 

A Monday night rally by the Thou Shall Not Move group in front of the covered Ten Commandments monument at Connellsville Junior High School was followed by the group encouraging the school board not to give up the fight to keep the monument.

“We want to see this all the way through legally,” said the Rev. Ewing Marietta before a group of Thou Shall Not Move members around the boarded-up Ten Commandments monument.

The group held the rally prior to Monday's agenda session of the Connellsville Area School Board.

The group was formed over a year ago after the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of an atheist who wanted the monument removed from the then Connellsville Junior High East where it was erected in 1957.

The district did not remove the monument, which has been boarded up, and has agreed to fight in court to keep it at the current location.

Following the rally, the group attended the non-voting agenda meeting for Connellsville Area School Board, where members encouraged the board to keep up the fight.

“Please, from the bottom of my heart, don't give up this fight,” Dennis McKendry, a Connellsville High School graduate and veteran, pleaded with the board.

Gary Colatch of Connellsville told the board that the argument of separation of church and state is a falsehood. The nation's capital has many religious symbols that remain to this day, he said, recently shown to him by evangelist and historian David Barton.

“In the Capitol Rotunda, there's a painting on the wall, not hanging on the wall, but painted on the wall, of the baptism of Pocahontas,” Colatch said.

Marietta said the Fraternal Order of Eagles made the push to place the Ten Commandments on school properties like the one in Connellsville in the 1950s. Marietta said the intention was not to push religion onto people, but to give children a good, moral code to follow.

The organization presented the board with a check for $5,477 from donations made to the group to help fight the ongoing legal battle.

“There's a lot of people behind you,” Marietta said, adding the group will continue to raise money to help the district with legal costs in the case.

Chris Stern, the district's solicitor, who said he's not charging the district for his work on the Ten Commandments case, thanked the group for the donation. But Stern said the district could not accept the check until he consulted with the Andrews & Price law firm in Wilkinsburg, which is handling the case for the district.

The Thou Shall Not Move group will hold its next meeting at the Connellsville Eagles at 5:30 p.m. June 19.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or mhofmann@tribweb.com.

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