NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. - Local clergy members gathered at Valley High School on Thursday to show and gather support for the district's Ten Commandments display.
The New Kensington-Arnold School District is in the middle of an argument with an out-of-state organization over the religious monument at the entrance of the school.
Superintendent George Batterson said he received a letter on Wednesday from a Wisconsin group called the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The group asked the school district to remove their monument of the Ten Commandments from the entrance of the high school.
Some people gathered Thursday to show their support for the monument.
“The founding fathers wanted a republic and now we have a tyranny of many that they can let one person complain, and that is not what the country is all about,” said supporter Rob Fusia.
“We are just here to show our support of keeping this historic landmark where it is,” said the Rev. Mitch Nickols.
“I'm here to support the freedom that we are supposed to have in this country,” said supporter Lillie Mazary.
“We’ve decided to take a hard line on this,” Batterson said. “We have legal counsel, and we are not going to remove the Ten Commandments.”
The group claims a visiting student saw the monument and alerted them. They say it promotes religion and is a violation of the Constitution’s separation of church and state.
Batterson said he’s received more than 1,000 emails and calls in support of the monument and only three messages opposing it.
“We don’t promote any religions or push any religions,” Batterson said. “We don’t think having the Ten Commandments monument in front of our high school is influencing them to become Christian, Jewish or any other religion.”
Batterson said the monument has been in front of the school for 57 years and many members of the community have called him supporting the monument.
“I’ve had parents call me, students email me and graduate students reach out. There has been tremendous support for what we’re trying to do,” Batterson said.
Nickols, pastor of Bibleway Christian Fellowship in New Kensington, said the Ten Commandments have stood in front of the school for years and represent not only religion, but history too.
A representative from Freedom From Religion said the group stands by its claims.