Gov. Mary Fallin has defied a ruling by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and blocked the removal of the Ten Commandments Monument at the State Capitol.
In a surprise decision, the court voted 7-2 to remove the monument because they considered it “unconstitutional.” Justices John Reif, Yvonne Kauger, Joseph Watt, James Winchester, James Edmondson, Steven Taylor and Noma Gurich voted against the Ten Commandments while justices Doug Combs and Tom Colbert dissented.
Winchester, Taylor and Combs will be up for retention votes in November of 2016.
Fallin ordered the monument, which was privately funded by State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and his family, to remain until legal appeals and legislative action is considered.
“The Ten Commandments monument was built to recognize and honor the historical significance of the Commandments in our state’s and nation’s systems of laws,” Fallin said. “The monument was built and maintained with private dollars. It is virtually identical to a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol which the United States Supreme Court ruled to be permissible. It is a privately funded tribute to historical events, not a taxpayer funded endorsement of any religion, as some have alleged.
“Nevertheless, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument was impermissible. Their decision was deeply disturbing to many in our Legislature, many in the general public, and to me.
“Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government. At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.
“During this process, which will involve both legal appeals and potential legislative and constitutional changes, the Ten Commandments monument will remain on the Capitol grounds.”
Former Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill in 2009 that would allow the monument. Former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, who is now the state chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, was the author of that bill.
“Even though the bill passed with bipartisan super majorities in both houses and signed by a Democrat governor, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the monument to be removed,” Brogdon said. “Their stated reason was the ‘Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.’ Let that soak in for a moment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court stated in effect, that if anything has any religious meaning, it is unconstitutional and must be extracted from the Capitol grounds.
“They cited Article 2 Section 5 to render their opinion. It states: ‘No public money shall ever be appropriated , applied, donated, or used…for the benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination or system of religion, or support any priest, preacher or minister.’
“An honest reading of the law, is to prevent tax dollars from being used to promote a church or leader of a church on state property. First of all private funds were used to build the monument, and secondly, no church, denomination or preacher is benefiting.
“The court had to ignore the obvious to come to their political decision, because it certainly isn’t an honest, legal or rational reading of Article 2 Section 5.”
Brogdon said judicial activism was to blame.
“Some judges believe their responsibility is to interrupt the law, rather than to uphold the law as it is written,” Brogdon said. “It is very troubling that any court justice would ignore the clear language of a law and impose their bias to interpret it rather than protect it. When a judge raises their right hand, they swear to uphold the Constitution and anything else is a breach of their sworn duty.”
Brogdon said this was a clear example of legislating from the bench.
“The seven members who voted to take the monument down, offered their opinion without regard to the language in the Constitution,” Brodgon said.
He said the Ten Commandments are as historically important to our system of government as is the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Articles of Confederation and The Declaration of Independence. “The Oklahoma Supreme Court does not have the authority to change the historical significance of our basis of law as outlined in the Ten Commandments,” Brogdon said. “Nor do they have the right to change the will of the people. But the people do have the right to change members on the court.”
In this decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court contradicted the Van Orden vs. Perry case in which the U.S. Supreme Court found that a Ten Commandments monument at the Texas Capitol was constitutional. It ruled that the monument was more historical than religious.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court cited the state constitution that “prohibits the use of public money for the indirect or direct benefit of any religion.”