Ten Commandments monument spurs controversy in Oklahoma

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The American Civil Liberties Union is considering challenging the placement of a Ten Commandments monument near the Oklahoma state Capitol, said the executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU.

The 6-foot-tall granite block was installed Nov. 9 on the lawn of the Capitol building in Oklahoma City, funded by the family of state Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow). The installation of the monument was authorized by a bill introduced by Ritze in 2009.

"The placing of a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol would help the people of the United States and of Oklahoma to know the Ten Commandments as the moral foundation of law," reads the bill. "The placement of this monument shall not be construed to mean that the State of Oklahoma favors any particular religion or denomination thereof over others."

Ritze characterized the installation of the monument as a tribute to Oklahoma's cultural heritage, stating in a House press release that the Ten Commandments were "the historical foundation of modern law."

Multiple misspellings were found in the text on the monument shortly after it was erected. The errors were subsequently corrected.

Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a secularist activism group, said, "Bible edicts have no business on government property." She continued, "There is no country where there is a greater freedom of religion or where churches have taken greater advantage of it."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is communicating with the ACLU about the possibility of taking legal action to get the monument removed, said Gaylor. There is a strong legal precedent for the removal of religious monuments from the lawns of government buildings. In
2009, the ACLU obtained a ruling against the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the Haskell County courthouse in Stigler, Okla., on the grounds that it constituted an official endorsement of religion.

Some states have addressed this issue by permitting members of all religious groups to install monuments on those states' Capitol or courthouse lawns, a solution hinted at in the text of Ritze's bill. However, Gaylor says such a solution would be inadequate because it could crowd the Capitol lawn and open the monuments of marginalized religions like Islam to vandalism.

"The monument must be removed," said Gaylor. "The First Commandment is the antithesis of the First Amendment." The First Commandment declares the supremacy of the Biblical God.

Plans to erect a similar Ten Commandments monument at the LeFlore County courthouse in Poteau, Okla., have been postponed until the legality of the Oklahoma state Capitol monument is resolved, Lance Smith, county commissioner, told the Tulsa World.

Photo: Flickr

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  • Whose this Ritze guy think he is?!? making new laws so he doesn't remain obligated to follow the first one.....Seperation of church an State....pretty simple it seems

    Posted by Dusty Cordell , 03/20/2014 5:01am (4 months ago)

  • As a Christian these days it is strange! Something horrible happens, vulgar language posted on billboards, magazines, and everywhere else in public, on the radio/tv and I'm told if I don't like it, don't look at it! Really? Well the same goes for this, if you don't like it, then don't look at it. If you don't believe in at least half of the ten commandments then go to a place where there is no law! In many countries around the world you can't carry a Bible without being put in jail (yes, even in 2013 there are areas in the world like this!) and where we have the freedom to read the Bible, putting up the Ten Commandments on public display is unlawful!

    Posted by Tony Pearson, 03/03/2013 2:29pm (1 year ago)

  • "Foundation of Law"....really? Where in civil law do we address the worship of 'graven images'? I find the photo in the article very interesting. Who knew that the ten commandments actually had the American Flag on them. I'm glad they cleared that up for us. As to the Louisiana retired Judge and our friend from the Moses Project I would say that it was much more the work of Marshall Zhukov rather than Gen. Eisenhower that "kept us from speaking German".

    Posted by Joseph Zimmermann, 01/04/2013 11:19pm (2 years ago)

  • A letter to Justice Scalia from a friend of Project Moses, who is a retired Judge from Louisiana:

    Justice Antonin G. Scalia
    Supreme Court of the United States
    One First Street N. E.
    Washington, DC 20543


    Re: Separation of Church and State Safe Harbor

    Dear Justice Scalia,

    We need a safe harbor. The people of the United States were apparently in the dark from the time of the passage of the First Amendment until the Supreme Court shed light on the “true” meaning of the First Amendment in 1963. Just like Congress, meaning Congress and not a local school board, should not pass retroactive legislation or ex post facto laws, you should make “separation of church and state” only apply to acts after 1963 when the people of the United States were informed of the true meaning of the First Amendment.

    Otherwise you will have to take the paintings out of the Capitol Rotunda and whitewash over the murals in the Statehouse in Boston. We would need to remove paragraph 3 from the Northwest Ordinance since obviously the Founders didn’t know that it was contradictory to the First Amendment even though they passed the two in the same session of Congress. It also appears they were ignorant of the fact that the word Congress could also mean a local school board.

    George Washington adopted the pine tree flag with, “An Appeal to Heaven”, on it. Odd for a Deist who did not believe in a God who answered prayer. Why he prayed all the time is beyond me. It was the Massachusetts Naval insignia until 1971, when an “enlightened” legislature realized it had been unconstitutional since the Revolutionary War and took off “An Appeal to Heaven.”

    Suffice it to say that your work load would be reduced if your next opinion said that anything done in the Dark Ages before 1963 was excusable ignorance by an unenlightened generation and “separation of church and state” will only apply to activities after 1963. You thereby avoid deciding that intolerant President Eisenhower, the man who kept us from speaking German, was just unenlightened when “under God” was put in the pledge and just hadn’t been taught properly that he should have not been judgmental about “Godless Communists.”

    Similarly, you would avoid deciding whether to take In God We Trust off the money because Lincoln was simply unenlightened, etc, etc, etc.

    By Darwin, you could do it.

    Sincerely,

    Posted by Project Moses, 01/04/2013 10:18am (2 years ago)

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