A federal judge has ruled that a Ten Commandments monument can remain in front of a public school in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pa.
The rulings ends — for now — a three-year-old lawsuit, filed by the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which called the Ten Commandments monument at Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Kensington unconstitutional, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune‑Review.
U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled that the Freedom from Religion Foundation, as well as plaintiffs Marie Schaub and her unidentified daughter, failed to demonstrate that they have been sufficiently harmed by the monument.
Thus, the judge concluded, none of them has adequate standing to bring a lawsuit.
The plaintiffs “have failed to establish that they were forced to come into ‘direct, regular, and unwelcome contact with the’ Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Valley High School,” McVerry wrote.
The judge, an appointee of George W. Bush, based his ruling on statements Schaub and her daughter made during depositions.
Schaub said she had encountered the Ten Commandments monument roughly twice while driving to and from the school. She also witnessed its presence one time back in either 2007 or 2008 when she ferried her daughter to a karate event at the school.
As for Schaub’s daughter, McVerry noted, she was never a student at the school where the monument has its home. In her testimony, the girl said she never really paid any attention to it to the extent she ever did see it.
Schaub pulled her daughter out of the public school after the lawsuit was filed.
Schaub’s “offense” at the monument “seems to have manifested itself only after” the Freedom From Religion Foundation “became involved in this dispute,” the judge observed.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation initiated the lawsuit back in the spring of 2012 with an angry demand letter — its specialty. (RELATED: Atheist Group, Angry Mom Go Ballistic Over Prayer At Pretend Preschool Commencement)
The atheist group then filed the lawsuit in the fall of 2012.
School district superintendent John Pallone told the Tribune‑Review he is “pleased with the decision by the court.”
At the Freedom From Religion Foundation, there is great sadness and unhappiness.
“It is troubling that judges are closing the courthouse door on plaintiffs who simply want government actors to abide by the Constitution,” FFRF spokesman Dan Barker said in a statement.
Schaub said she is considering an appeal of the district court decision.
The exact genesis of the Ten Commandments monument on school grounds isn’t clear. It appears to have been donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles back in 1957.
The result of McVerry’s ruling is encouraging for advocates of religious statuary and imagery.
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled that a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol in Oklahoma City had to be removed because it violates the state constitution. (RELATED: Is Oklahoma About To Change Its Constitution For A Ten Commandments Monument?)
In 2013, a rural Ohio school district settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation over a portrait of Jesus Christ which had hung in the entryway of Jackson Middle School since the Truman administration. (RELATED: Rural Ohio School District Surrenders To ACLU Over Jesus Portrait)