JOHNSTON COUNTY, Okla. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against officials of a county in Oklahoma in an effort to force the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn of the county courthouse.
The suit comes just weeks after a similar monument was removed from the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol after the state Supreme Court declared that it violated the Oklahoma Constitution.
“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such,” the cited section reads.
The ACLU had filed suit in that case as well. The monument was relocated to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs after being removed by the cover of night.
Now, the ACLU of Oklahoma has filed suit against the Johnston County Board of Commissioners over a Ten Commandments monument that was placed outside of the Johnston County courthouse just hours later. There are six plaintiffs in the case who serve as complainants.
“No government official has the constitutional authority to use the machinery of government to exploit religion for their own petty political purposes.” Executive Director Ryan Kiesel told local television station KFOR. “When the government literally puts one faith on a pedestal, it sends a strong message to Oklahomans of other faiths and those of no faith at all that they are less than equal.”
Johnston County Commissioner Mike Thompson says that the board will defend the monument “all the way.”
“I do understand legislators are trying to run some different bills this next coming session, I think with Gov. Fallin, so that we can have the Ten Commandments on the state capitol yard,” he told reporters. “And hopefully there’ll be some legislation run that will help us be able to keep them where they’re at.”
Thompson was referring to House Joint Resolution 1036, which would serve as a an amendment to remove Article II, Section 5 from the Oklahoma Constitution—the text that was used as the basis for the removal of the capitol monument.
“[O]ur legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible,” Fallin has also stated. “If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.”