Oklahoma Voters Reject Proposal to Allow Ten Commandments at State Capitol

Monument-compressedOKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Voters in Oklahoma have rejected a ballot proposal that would have allowed the Ten Commandments to be displayed on the grounds of the state capitol building.

As of press time, State Question 790 had failed with over 55 percent of voters saying no an initiative that asked whether or not the state Constitution should be amended to allow government property to be used for religious benefit.

“This measure would remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution,” the ballot question read.

“Article 2, Section 5 has been interpreted by the Oklahoma courts as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol,” it explained. “If this measure repealing Article 2, Section 5 is passed, the government would still be required to comply with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which is a similar constitutional provision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming overly involved with religion.”

As previously reported, a Ten Commandments monument was removed from the Capitol grounds in October 2015 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the display violated Article 2, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution, which states that property cannot be used to promote a “church denomination or system of religion.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma was at the helm of the legal effort to have the monument removed, as it asserted that the placement of the Decalogue on the grounds of the state capitol building was unconstitutional. The lead plaintiff in the case was liberal minister Bruce Prescott, the director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

In the midst of the conflict, the Satanic Temple soon sought to place a Baphomet statue on the capitol grounds, and the Universalist Society of Hinduism applied to erect a monument to its monkey deity Hanuman.

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In April, following the removal of the Ten Commandments monument and a determination among some to have it restored, lawmakers approved a resolution to place the Ten Commandments controversy on the Oklahoma ballot.

“Since the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in June [2015] regarding the Ten Commandments monument, my constituents wanted to know what could be done,” said John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, an attorney, earlier this year. “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.”

“This is a battle that belongs to the great people of Oklahoma. It’s up to them to determine what they want,” he stated.

The ACLU praised the outcome Tuesday night.

“Today, despite a well-funded and deceptive campaign by the proponents of this state question, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly rejected the dangerous and misguided attempt by politicians to strip away one of our most fundamental protections in exchange for cheap political points,” Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said in a statement.

“Politicians should take note that attempts to manipulate the law to protect only the rights of a chosen few cannot be tolerated,” he said. “Legislators and state officials will surely continue their fear-mongering attempts to promote intolerance, but thanks to today’s vote, those who value true religious liberty will retain one more tool in the ongoing fight for liberty and justice for all.”

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