Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument ordered to be removed

The Ten Commandments monument violated Oklahoma's state Constitution, which bars using public money to support religion.

Sue Ogrocki/AP
The Ten Commandments monument is pictured at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City Tuesday June 30.

The Ten Commandments monument on state Capitol grounds must be removed, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court said that the monument indirectly benefits the Jewish and Christian faiths and is in violation of the state constitution.

According to Oklahama’s NewsOk, a 7-2 Supreme Court decision cited a clause in the Oklahoma Constitution that states: "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 monument was installed in November 2012, three years after a bill authorizing it was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and signed into law by then Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat and was paid for with private funds through Rep. Mike Ritze, (R) of Broken Arrow, Okla..

Tuesday’s ruling overturned a decision by Oklahoma County District Judge Thomas Prince in March, which said the plaintiffs, New Jersey-based American Atheists Inc., failed to show standing to bring the suit.

The monument has been at the center of more than one lawsuit, which have argued that it violates the state Constitution's prohibition against using public property to support "any sect, church, denomination or system of religion." 

In May, Aaron Cooper, spokesman for Oklahoma’s Attorney General, argued that the Ten Commandments monument was not serving a religious purpose.  

“The Ten Commandments has played a historical role in the founding of this nation,” said Mr. Cooper, “And because it honors the historical role of the commandments, the Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is constitutional.”

As far as the "historic purpose" justification goes, "the Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths," justices stated in Tuesday's ruling.

In October 2014, the monument was damaged when a man drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. The monument was replaced early this year with an exact replica commissioned by Representative Ritze’s family.  

Other groups have also asked to erect their own monuments on the Capitol grounds, including Satanists, an animal rights group, and the "Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."

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