Court Should Allow Challenge To Ten Commandments Display At Pa. Public School

District Court Erred By Rejecting Lawsuit, Church-State Watchdog Says

A Pennsylvania woman and her minor child should be permitted to sue the New Kensington-Arnold School District over a Ten Commandments display at a local high school, Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a friend-of-the-court brief in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
 
Marie Schaub filed the suit in 2012 with the assistance of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. But U.S. District Court Judge Terrence F. McVerry dismissed her lawsuit in July because her child had changed schools to avoid seeing the religious display. Americans United’s brief, filed Thursday, argues that it is unreasonable for the court to expect a child to suffer daily exposure to a violation of her constitutional rights, and that Schaub’s pre-existing exposure to the display should grant her standing to sue.
 
“The district court’s holdings are plainly wrong. They are contrary to controlling Supreme Court precedent and the prior decisions of this Court,” the brief notes. “Plaintiffs had standing to bring their Establishment Clause claims and are entitled under the Constitution to consideration of their merits. This Court should reverse the district court.”
 
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United’s executive director, said Schaub deserves her day in court.
 
“This monument is clearly sectarian, and it doesn’t belong at a public school,” Lynn said. “Marie Schaub and her child raise compelling issues that the court shouldn’t attempt to dodge. The appeals court should reinstate her lawsuit.”
 
Alex J. Luchenitser, Americans United’s Associate Legal Director, added: “Religious monuments don’t belong on public-school grounds. The court shouldn’t close the courthouse door on this mother and her child.”
 
Americans United filed the brief in coalition with the Anti-Defamation League, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, the Sikh Coalition and the Union for Reform Judaism.
 
The brief was prepared by Stephen M. Shapiro, Brian D. Netter, and Charles M. Woodworth of the Supreme Court & Appellate practice group of the international law firm Mayer Brown LLP, Americans United’s Legal Director Richard B. Katskee, and Luchenitser.
 

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.