OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A Ten Commandments monument that had been displayed on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol was removed in the night on Monday.
As previously reported, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission voted 7-1 last week 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.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in June 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…”
According to reports, Oklahoma officials hired a contractor for $4,700 to remove the monument, and decided to do so in the night so as to avoid protests. Workers began the removal after 10 p.m. on Monday.
“We wanted it to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doing it at night gave us the best opportunity to do that,” Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman John Estus told the Associated Press. “The Highway Patrol was also very concerned that having it in the middle of the day could lead to having demonstrations of some kind.”
Security was increased around the display yesterday up until the time of its removal.
The monument has been moved to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which will store the Decalogue at its facility.