CONNELLSVILLE (KDKA) — The debate over a Ten Commandments monument is heating up in Fayette County.

The Americans United for Separation of Church and State wants the slab removed from in front of Connellsville Jr. High East; but on Monday evening, local pastors led a prayer group in support of keeping the monument.

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The five-foot marble monument, which was a gift to Connellsville schools from a group called the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, has stood on the property for more than 50 years.

“The school district did not pay for it, the Eagles paid for it,” said Pastor Ewing Marietta, of the Liberty Baptist Church. “The school district does not maintain it, it just sits here; it is separate from the building.”

“I ask you today, let’s keep the freedom of religion here, let’s not be pushed aside, let’s not make this an atheist area,” he added.

The controversy erupted because the Connellsville Area School District is faced with the prospect of a costly lawsuit because of several complaints that the monument may violate the First Amendment separating church and state.

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The pastor of the Connellsville Church of God, which sits near the school, says if the monument has to move, it can be relocated on church property within eyesight of where it is now.

“My prayer is for it to stay here, but if not, it’s going to be in a bigger location, in a bigger place, where more people will be able to see it,” said Rev. Nelson Confer, of the Connellsville Church of God. “That God’s not going to let this thing die and set into a basement of some building or on some scrap pile.”

“I’m a believer in Jesus and I’m a believer in keeping the Ten Commandments where it’s at and I went to school here. I was 2-years-old when this was actually put here,” Jim Hillen, a resident of Connellsville, said of the monument.

There was a packed meeting of the Connellsville Area School Board Monday night for a workshop session, and many people voiced concerns about relocating the monument.

There was no vote by the board. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday night and a full house is expected.

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Ten Commandments Monument In Connellsville At Center Of Controversy (9/7/12)
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