A junior high in Pennsylvania received pressure to take down a large stone copy of the Ten Commandments, and a pastor started a campaign to put up more monuments to God on private property.
The religious community, and the organizations that represent them, get pretty loud and excited when they think they’ve won a battle in the long-winded, immaterial, and loosely sanctioned “War on Religion." When you listen to some of the chaotic logic and presumption that lets them comfortably claim victory over a relatively insignificant chunk of society, you almost feel happy for them, like an exhausted father listening to a roomful of kids arguing about which dinosaur is the best. As long as they don’t bring you into it, you’re happy that they’re happy, but as soon as they start drawing dinosaurs on your living room walls, shit’s going down.
For the last 50 years, thousands of Connellsville Junior High School students in Pennsylvania have passed a large granite slab bearing the Ten Commandments as they entered their publicly funded school property, reminding them that, "yes, I am indeed the Lord, same one who brought you out of the Land of Egypt and ended slavery, your only God, and by the way, don’t say my name shitty or worship any inanimate objects, for I am a jealous God. Also, be nice to your parents, don’t kill anyone or steal their stuff (wives included), and make sure you don’t want stuff that other people have."
The religious heirloom was donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the anti-Communist non-profit responsible for Mother’s Day. Now, for a rural Pennsylvania coal mining town in the 1950s, hysterically terrified of Godless commies and powering through a religious revival, the gift certainly had its place. But today we have iPhones and Tinder instead of communism or community, so when parents at the school complained, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, along with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent letters to the school district asking them to take the Ten Commandments down. They covered them up with plywood immediately. Superintendent Dan Lujetic said, “If we wanted to fight this, there's no way we would win.” Many students didn’t know that there was a monument to the Ten Commandments on school grounds; some thought it was a war memorial.
So, the school admitted defeat and covered up the damn thing, and we’re done with this right?
Pastor Ewing Marietta. Photo via KDKA-TV
Nope! Let’s all give a big “¡Hola!” to Pastor Ewing Marietta, founder of something called Thou Shall Not Move, which I originally assumed was an app of rent-controlled buildings in my city, but turned out to be the protest group against removal of religious landmarks, mostly the Ten Commandments. Ewing, insulted by the continued affirmation of the First Amendment, said of the situation, “God’s word says you should not move the ancient landmarks,” which is a reference to Deuteronomy 19:14, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it.”
Now, some may consider the wording of this passage to refers to historically set boundaries of land possession, and not to move them in order to give yourself more land, as the Lord thy God gave it to you. But of course, there’s the singular, unrelated definition which is to say “Don’t move God’s stuff, specifically if it’s the Ten Commandments.” Pastor Ewing seems relatively unconcerned with real-estate fraud.
Over the last year, Thou Shall Not Move has raised $25,000, which was originally for the school’s defense fund, although the project has since been expanded to include 14 six-foot-tall, 1,600lb stone slabs bearing the words that God wrote with his finger, that Moses then smashed and rewrote from memory. These are then sold to churches, religious centers, and houses of worship for a nominal “monument fee," which is partially covered by the raised funds, if the church cannot afford it.
Thou Shall Not Move moved one of these monoliths to The North Ten Mile Baptist Church in Amity, PA for their first sale and unveiling of the in-your-face, who’s-the-boss now, completely legal expression of free speech and religion. Atheists around the world responded with “What? Oh, okay great, yeah go for it, it’s your property.”
Problematically, Thou Shall Not Move and its supporters are not only providing an unnecessary service to the community, but making a completely empty statement with their newfound donations base. Putting religious idolatry on your religious grounds, and not in our schools, was the entire point of the original request to remove the monument, something largely missed in the exuberance of the Pastor as he toured around Pennsylvania registering churches, and one volunteer Fire Department, to purchase these heavy bits of rock from him. Ironically, the only winners here are the parents who complained about the monument originally, and the gravestone masons at Davis Monuments Inc., who created all 14 of the objets d’art.
Despite his relative success, there’s certainly an angle to this which the pastor doesn’t understand; when asked if he’d still like to put one in a public school, he said, “Absolutely, we would do that for free, if there’s a school district out there that says, ‘We want one,’ then by golly we’ll bring it. I’ll even pay for the foundation. I’ll dig the hole myself.” By golly, it seems that the Pastor believes that saying “We want one," à la Tinkerbell, is on about the same level as a constitutional division of church and state. Still, if the churches are happy, the pastor is happy, the school is happy, and the parents are happy, then I say, let’s let them think they’ve won this one.
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