Valley High 10 Commandments monument to find new home at Catholic school
A monument featuring the Ten Commandments that must be removed from the Valley High School campus as the result of a recent court settlement has found a new home at a former school district property.
The religious monument will soon reside at the former Greenwald Memorial School, according to New Kensington-Arnold School District Superintendent John Pallone.
The building is no longer a public school, after the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg bought the shuttered elementary school for $525,000 last March.
Greenwald, at the corner of Freeport and Elmtree roads in New Kensington, was closed in summer 2014 when the district consolidated schools to save money and better utilize space.
It is now Mary Queen of Apostles Catholic School.
Under an agreement between the district and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation announced Tuesday, the district agreed to remove the stone monument containing the Commandments by mid-March.
The agreement ended an ongoing federal lawsuit filed in September 2012 by Marie Schaub, who claimed the monument was a strictly religious symbol and was offensive to herself and her daughter, who was a Valley High School student at the time.
A local Fraternal Order of the Eagles branch gifted the monument to the district about 50 years ago, as part of a nationwide movement in response to the 1956 release of the movie “The Ten Commandments.”
Fighting the lawsuit has cost the district $20,000 in insurance deductibles, Pallone said.
But just because the lawsuit is over doesn’t mean the school board is happy about it.
“It’s with mixed emotions that the district, as you know, conceded and agreed to move the monument for a number of reasons,” Pallone said. “But I’m proud to tell you today that the monument will be relocated. … It will remain in the community and it will be highly visible.
“For those of us who acknowledge the worth of the Ten Commandments, they will be present. For those that don’t see the value in the Ten Commandments, they can turn the other cheek, as we learn in the Bible.”
Pallone said the move has been in the process for several months as the court case over the monument carried on.
“We’ve been working on this for a couple of months with the settlement, it was all hand in glove,” he said. “The only way we were going to agree with the settlement is if we knew we were going to be able to move the monument to a worthy location. I think we have accomplished that.”
Bishop Edward Malesic, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, has already agreed to the transfer of the monument, Pallone said.
“You will see that monument will be on display forever,” Robert Pallone, school board president said.
The decision to move the monument has been met with both praise and criticism.
Schaub said when the settlement was announced on Tuesday that she was relieved and excited to finally bring the case to a close.
“It’s unfortunate that many people in my community don’t understand or appreciate the separation of church and state, but I hope this settlement serves as an important lesson,” she said.
Schaub could not be reached for comment late Thursday about the monument’s new home.
Ronald White, of New Kensington, attended Thursday’s school board meeting to voice his displeasure with the monument’s removal.
“It doesn’t even matter to the lady and her daughter,” he said. “They don’t even go to this school.”
Robert Pallone also addressed the complaints of some district residents he said were unhappy with his characterization of the decision to move the monument.
“Some folks are making jest of the word that was used in the paper — compromise — but the compromise put us in a position where we are moving it instead of paying some exorbitant damages to the people who brought the suit.
“So the compromise is that we are moving it and they aren’t getting anything … they can’t come back on us.”
Robert Pallone noted that the monument’s new location will be more visible than its present one.
John Pallone said the district will pay for moving the monument, but he suggested local monument companies might help and that students from the Northern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center may assist with building a base for it.
The district will have until March 15 to move the monument, but Robert Pallone said the process will depend on whether the ground around the monument is firm enough to use the heavy equipment required to move it.
Matthew Medsger is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4675 or [email protected]bweb.com.