Religious indoctrination has no part in public schools and yet students attending Valley High School in New Kensington, PA (15 miles northwest of Pittsburgh) are greeted every morning by a large granite monument displaying the Ten Commandments, right outside the front door of their school.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) notified the school yesterday that the monument needs to be removed. Staff attorney Patrick C. Elliott argues in the letter, which you can read in its entirety, that the permanent display of the Ten Commandments in front of a New Kensington-Arnold school clearly violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. For example, in Stone v. Graham (1980), he notes that the Supreme Court wrote:
The pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature … The Commandments do not confine themselves to arguably secular matters … rather, the first part of the Commandments concerns the religious duties of believers: worshipping the Lord God alone, avoiding idolatry, not using the Lord’s name in vain, and observing the Sabbath Day.
In Van Orden v Perry (2005), Justice Breyer reiterated that the Ten Commandments are not appropriate on
the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.
The Valley High School case is particularly egregious. The Ten Commandments stand alone at a main entrance on a permanent, 6-foot tall monument, screaming out in very odd capitalization: “I AM the LORD thy God”. To make matters worse, the version posted on the stone is not even the typical generic version, but one that is specifically Roman Catholic, thus alienating Protestant, as well as non-Christian and non-believing students, parents, and staff members. As the letter states, it is unfortunate that some educators feel it is their place to instruct other people’s children on religious edicts.
Let’s hope that Jon Banko, Prinicipal of Valley High School, and George Batterson, Superintendent, have learned from the Cranston West fiasco and will come to a quick resolution. It is time to stop the proselytizing on public school grounds. It is time to remove the Ten Commandments.