Oklahoma Officials Vote to Remove Ten Commandments Monument from Capitol

Oklahoma Capitol Building pdOKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Officials in Oklahoma voted on Tuesday to remove a Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds amid a court battle over the Decalogue display.

The Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission voted 7-1 to give authorization to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to remove the monument following a court order declaring that the display must go.

As previously reported, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the monument must be removed because it 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. Prescott said that mixing the sacred with the secular in such a manner cheapens the display, and asserted that it violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”

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Last September, Judge Prince concluded that the monument served a historical purpose and not solely the presentment of a religious message as it sits on a plot of land that contains 51 other expressive monuments. But the case was appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which overturned the lower court ruling. Gov. Mary Fallin refused to remove the display while an appeal was filed.

Last month, Prince upheld the Supreme Court’s order that the monument must go and required that it be removed by October 12.

Now that the Preservation Commission has voted to authorize the removal of the display, some are now discussing where its new home might be. Estela Hernandez, the interim chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party told local television station KFOR that she would like the monument to be placed outside of her office.

“It’s a reminder that we truly are a people with moral laws, with moral values,” she said. “And when we start to dismiss the notion that God should not be in our schoolhouse and in our government, that’s when we start to lose or start to see a decline of our culture.”

“Those [are] principles that define us as Americans, that define us as to what our framers intended our nation to be,” Hernandez continued. “They sought out those Christian values; they sought out God’s wisdom. And I truly believe Oklahomans share in those values.”

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