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School District's Ten Commandments Monument Stirs Controversy

NEW KENSINGTON (KDKA) -- Officials with the Valley School District in New Kensington are bracing for a legal battle with an atheist group that's threatening a lawsuit if a Ten Commandments monument is not removed from school property.

For years the monument has been a fixture outside of Valley High School without any complaints or controversy.

But now, the district is coming under fire to remove it or face a possible lawsuit.

The Valley School District recently received a letter from the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation claiming the Ten Commandments monument violates the principles of separation of church and state by being on high school property.

"The one thing that's very, very important that people realize is that there is no way that our school district is trying to promote or impose religion on our students," said Dr. George Batterson, the Valley School District Superintendent.

"I don't see what the problem is with the Ten Commandments being there," added Jacob Knapp, a student. "It's not like the school is forcing us to read them or follow them and it was a gift to the school district when it was built."

The foundation says the monument was brought to its attention by a student who does not attend Valley High School.

Dr. Batterson says it was a gift many years ago from a community organization and it's not going anywhere.

"This is just a monument that was donated by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles way back in 1957 and we see this having more historical significance than religious," said Dr. Batterson.

A spokesman for the Freedom from Religion Foundation says his group has a lawsuit against a school district in Virginia that has a similar monument. The next step is up to the foundation now that the district is standing firm on plans to keep it.

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