Seven liberal justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court have ordered the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from state property even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the monument can be displayed in public in Texas.
Gov. Mary Fallin said the monument will stay in place pending appeal by Attorney General Scott Pruitt and legislative action.
State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and his family paid for construction of the monument at the State Capitol. It was destroyed by a man and then replaced.
“Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong,” said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. “The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.
“Furthermore, the court’s incorrect interpretation of Article 2, Section 5, contradicts previous rulings of the court. In response, my office will file a petition with the court for a rehearing in light of the broader implications of this ruling on other areas of state law. In the interim, enforcement of the court’s order cannot occur.
“Finally, if Article 2, Section 5, is going to be construed in such a manner by the court, it will be necessary to repeal it.”
The suit was brought by the ACLU for four plaintiffs, one of whom died. The 7-2 decision drew criticism from Christians throughout Oklahoma.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds ignores its historical significance in the formation of our state and as an ancient law code having prominence at the place where lawmakers work to enact wise and just laws,” said the Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. “The Court’s dismissal of these established facts is deeply concerning and disappointing.”
The justices claimed that the state constitution prohibits the use of public money to benefit a church or religion. The monument was privately funded with no state money, even when it had to be replaced.
Ritze had argued that the Ten Commandments, which are shared by the Christian and Jewish faiths, was historical because much of our law is based on its principles.
The United States Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Ten Commandments monument did not violate the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution but that didn’t affect the Oklahoma decision.
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.
Reif (2003), Edmondson (2003), Taylor (2004) and Gurich (2011) were appointed by former Gov. Brad Henry, a liberal Democrat. Kauger (1984) was appointed by former Gov. George Nigh, also a Democrat. Watt (1992) was appointed by former Gov. David Walters, a liberal Democrat.
Winchester was appointed in 2000 by former Gov. Frank Keating, a conservative Republican.
Eight of the nine justices were appointed, with Senate confirmation, by liberal Democrat governors.