Pennsylvania school district spends $64,000 to fight atheists over Ten Commandments monument

The Ten Commandments monument outside the Connellsville Area School District Junior High School(FFRF)

A school district in Pennsylvania paid a law firm $64,000 to fight off a lawsuit by an atheist group, which targeted the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in school property.

The Connellsville Area School District lost the case filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and a student's parent in 2012. The decision was rendered by a court last August.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry of the Western District of Pennsylvania ruled that "the Ten Commandments monument at the Connellsville Area School District Junior High School runs afoul of the Establishment Clause."

But the group responsible for urging the school district to fight the lawsuit said it was needed despite the costs.

"It doesn't matter what the cost was, it was a fight that needed to be fought," David Show of the Thou Shall Not Move told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "That's something that should not be a problem in our schools."

The news site said the law firm Andrews & Price billed the district's insurance carrier for 400 hours of work between October 2012 and December 2014. Solicitor Chris Stern said the bills would be paid by the carrier, School Claims Insurance LLC of New Cumberland.

When the judge ruled on the case, he did not order the removal of the monument as the family who objected no longer attends or visits the school.

Two weeks after the ruling, school directors voted to return the marker to the Connellsville Fraternal Order of Eagles. The marker had stood outside the school since 1957.

The marker was finally removed in October and placed in a church property near the school.

"We warned the school district that we would win," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF.

The FFRF asked the school district to remove the monument and district officials said they had planned to do so and covered it with plywood.

However, residents formed the Thou Shall Not Move movement and persuaded the school to reverse its decision.

A federal judge in July dismissed a similar case filed by FFRF in 2012 against the New Kensington-Arnold School District about a Ten Commandments monument outside the Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Kensington.

The court said the FFRF failed to show that a resident and her daughter were harmed by the monument that also had been donated by an Eagles lodge 50 years ago.