OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Lawmakers in Oklahoma have passed a resolution that will place on the November ballot the question of whether or not a section of the state constitution should be abolished that was used as the basis for the removal of a Ten Commandments monument at the state capitol.
“Since the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in June regarding the Ten Commandments monument, my constituents wanted to know what could be done,” said John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, an attorney. “I knew it would be a difficult proposition to undo the ruling, so we looked at giving voters the opportunity to remove the basis for the ruling.”
As previously reported, the monument was removed in October after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in June that the display violates Article 2, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution, which states that property cannot be used to promote a “church denomination or system of religion.”
“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 section reads.
The display had been proposed by Rep. Mike Ritze in 2009, and was soon after approved by the largely Republican-run state legislature. Ritze paid over $1000 for the display, and no taxpayer funds were utilized in its creation.
In August 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma filed suit against the display, asserting that its erection on the grounds of the state capitol building was unconstitutional. The lead plaintiff was liberal minister Bruce Prescott, the director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma House voted 65-7 in favor of a resolution to place the matter on the November ballot.
“The new interpretation of this provision can potentially make our state hostile to religion and have damaging impacts on our counties, cities and school districts,” Jordan said. “This impact has already been felt in Johnston County, where the ACLU filed a lawsuit based solely on this section of the state constitution and forced the removal of their Ten Commandments monument.”
“This is a battle that belongs to the great people of Oklahoma. It’s up to them to determine what they want,” he stated.
“Oklahomans overwhelmingly supported the placement of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the state capitol, and they will now be given the opportunity to address the issue in our constitution which the Supreme Court cited in ordering the removal of the Ten Commandments monument,” also remarked House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman.