An atheist group has won against a school system in Pennsylvania, surrounding the display of the 10 Commandments on government property. Raw Story reports that the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained about the religious symbolism being displayed on the grounds of Connellsville Junior High School, because it violated the separation of church and state.
A judge has sided with the atheist group, and the administration of Connellsville Junior High School has agreed to return the statue of the Christian concept to the group that donated it. The Daily Journal reports that the Fraternal Order of the Eagles donated the statue of the 10 Commandments to symbolize the widespread Christian faith of those who live in the area, and who attend the school. However, with it being a public school — and therefore funded by taxpayer money — it is against the law to display the commandments because it is a clear promotion of a single religion.
This comes as a small victory for nonbelievers in the United States — especially after at least one recent case wasn’t victorious for atheist groups. Back in August another judge ruled against a single atheist who had requested a 10 Commandments statue be removed from another school in Pennsylvania. This came as a great disappointment to secular activists in the United States, even though the ruling could indeed be taken to a higher court.
The separation of church and state is a concept that is embedded in the writings of America’s founding fathers — as well as in the Constitution of the United States of America. Article VI of the 1st Amendment has paved the way for secular groups to gradually dismantle state-promoted religion for many years.
Atheists have been victorious many times in regard to having offending monuments removed from public properties, among other situations. In 2014 a court in Oregon declared “Secular Humanism” a religion, which has helped in giving nonbelief-based religions the same rights as Christians, who are of the religious majority in the U.S. However, it should be noted that atheism itself is not a religion, but simply the absence of belief in deities. In 2012 a Rhode Island teenager named Jessica Ahlquist claimed a victory for atheists across the country when she fought to have a school prayer removed from the walls of her high school. The Ahlquistd v. Cranston ruling was achieved thanks in part to ACLU, who assisted Ahlquist in her endeavors.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is indeed victorious in this incident, but it should be noted that the Connellsville Junior High School has not yet removed the statue. However, they have promised to do so, and intend to return it to the original donors. A time and date for this has not yet been scheduled.
Photo: 10 Commandments via CBS News/Connellsville Junior High School