Fayette pastor who advocated against removal of Ten Commandments monument dies
A Fayette County pastor who advocated against the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from a Connellsville Area School District property died unexpectedly Monday morning, just days after a federal judge rejected an atheist’s group’s request to have the tablet removed.
The Rev. Ewing Marietta, 49, of South Connellsville was pronounced dead at 4:20 a.m. Monday in Highlands Hospital in Connellsville, according to the coroner’s office. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine the cause of death.
Marietta, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in North Union, was one of the leaders of Thou Shalt Not Move. The group fought to keep a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of a junior high school in the Connellsville Area School District.
Senior U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry on Friday found the 3,000-pound stone monument to be unconstitutional, but he did not order its removal. McVerry said ordering its removal would be “moot” because the family who in 2012 objected to it no longer attends the school.
“He was very happy,” said one of the group’s organizers, Gary Colatch of Connellsville. “I’m really glad he got to see that victory before he passed.”
McVerry’s ruling left both sides declaring victory, with the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation insisting the school must remove it or risk more litigation. Marietta on Friday described the ruling as a “win” and suggested the district uncover it.
In 2012, the district covered the monument with plywood when the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of an unnamed seventh-grader and her mother.
On Monday, Colatch said with Marietta’s passing, the group will continue to work to ensure the monument stays in place.
“He never gave up, he never got discouraged when the school seemed like it would not fight it anymore,” Colatch said. “We are determined to make sure it stays there now.”
Colatch described Marietta as a “driving force” behind the Thou Shall Not Move group. The group staged rallies and sold about 18,000 Ten Commandments yard signs to pay for stone monuments that were placed at churches and other locations throughout the Fay-West area.
Marietta was a veteran of the U.S Army, serving in military intelligence. He served in Iraq during the first Gulf War with the 24th Infantry Division, according to former Army Chaplain Darrell Williams.
“He had a passion and love for people, his country, his church and Jesus,” said Williams of Morristown, Tenn. “We are all saddened by his loss and praying for his family.”
In addition to his work with the Ten Commandments group, Marietta often delivered a brief prayer at the start of county commissioners meetings.
“As he spoke them (prayers), I listened and prayed that God would give me the guidance to make decisions that were in the best interest of the people of the county,” said Commissioner Chairman Vincent Zapotosky. “He was not just a man of faith, but also a man who believed in the good side of people.”
Zapotosky and commissioners Al Ambrosini and Angela Zimmerlink said Marietta will be missed.
“It is truly a sad day in Fayette County, as we have lost a person who worked tirelessly for his county on many different levels, and I have lost a friend,” Zimmerlink said.
Funeral arrangements, which have not been announced, are under the direction of Burhans Crouse in Dunbar.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or [email protected].