NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — The New Philadelphia City School District has removed a plaque containing the Ten Commandments following a complaint by an nontheist organization.
According to a statement issued by the district, the Freedom From Religion Foundation requested that the district remove the 92-year-old plaque from Welty Middle School.
According to the organization's website, the Freedom From Religion Foundation aims to "promote nontheism and defend the constitutional separation between religion and government."
The plaque was a gift from the New Philadelphia High School class of 1926 in 1927, according to the district.
The district's statement noted its disagreement with the Freedom From Religion Foundation's approach, stating that the group sent the district a letter from its Wisconsin offices instead of requesting a meeting to discuss a resolution.
In a statement emailed to WKYC Tuesday, a Freedom From Religion Foundation spokesperson said, "FFRF commends the district for correcting this constitutional violation and for protecting the rights of all of its students. Students in our public schools are free to practice any religion they choose — or none at all. In America, we live under the First Amendment, not the Ten Commandments."
The district says it has reviewed its options and decided to remove the plaque, citing a 1980 Supreme Court ruling that suggests displaying the Ten Commandments in a school is prohibited. The district also noted substantial litigation costs.
"To preserve the plaque, the District would need to distinguish or overturn this well-established U.S. Supreme Court decision. In doing so, the District would become the first public school to successfully defend such a display in a school setting," the district's statement said.
Superintendent David Brand told WKYC the district may donate the plaque, while it is also considering filing an amicus brief on the matter.
"This would enable the District to challenge FFRF without becoming embroiled in lengthy litigation," Brand said. "The District believes acting on its own terms is the most effective way to continue to serve its students and the community."