The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, along with several other religious and anti-bias organizations, is urging Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature to remove a controversial Ten Commandments monument from the state Capitol grounds.
Dr. Carl Rubenstein, a retired cardiologist serving as Interfaith Alliance president, said a letter recently was sent to Fallin and several legislators asking them to heed the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s ruling to remove the monument.
“The wording of the Oklahoma Constitution is very clear and the Supreme Court has done what it is supposed to do — to rule on the constitutionality of a law or action,” the letter said.
Friday, in a prepared statement, Fallin reiterated her stance that the monument should remain on Capitol grounds.
“The Ten Commandments monument was a worthy project and something we should keep on the Capitol grounds. Legislators and supporters of the monument intended it as a tribute to the importance of the Ten Commandments to our history and our system of laws,” Fallin said.
“It’s important to keep in mind that the Legislature, with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, passed a bill in 2009 allowing the installation of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma State Capitol and Democrat Governor Brad Henry signed that bill into law. The monument was created and installed using private funds, and is virtually identical to a monument outside the Texas Statehouse which was ruled permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Rubenstein said the Interfaith Alliance’s letter regarding the monument was sent to Fallin’s office and emailed to several key legislative leaders. He said the alliance’s members and supporters also were asked to forward an email version of the letter to their legislative leaders.
The letter was signed by Rubenstein; the Rev. Bob Lawrence, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa; Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the national Interfaith Alliance; Jayme Cox, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice; Joan and Michael Korenblit, founders of the Respect Diversity Foundation; the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma; Rabbi Vered Harris, spiritual leader of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City; and Rabbi Abby Jacobson, spiritual leader of Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City.
Rubenstein said the alliance’s request to remove the monument from the state Capitol is consistent with its stances over the years about respecting the diversity of religions in society and recognizing the value of separation of church and state to protect that diversity. He said there also was a feeling that the state’s judicial system had come under attack when the state Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the monument must be removed. In it’s 7-2 ruling, the Oklahoma Supreme Court said placement of the monument next to the state Capitol runs counter to a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits state property from being used to further religions.
Rubenstein said the Interfaith Alliance wanted to send out a message of support for the court, whose ruling has been deemed unfavorable by many Oklahomans. He said the alliance and the other groups who signed the letter think the courts must be protected from being “intimidated or even bullied by other branches of government.” He said the groups were troubled about calls to impeach the Supreme Court justices after their ruling on the monument.
“Certainly there are people in the state who believe the monument should be there but the Supreme Court is not taking sides against an electorate. They are making a decision based on what is constitutional,” Rubenstein said Friday.
“If the desires of the majority impinges on the rights of other individuals, that’s part of what the constitution protects against — the tyranny of the majority.”
Meanwhile, Cox, with the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, headquartered in Tulsa, said the position stated in the letter is in keeping with the center’s mission.
“We feel like all religions are to be respected and we don’t believe any one should be singled out by a government,” she said.
Cox said the monument is better suited for placement on private property.
She added that keeping the monument at the Capitol opens the door to other monuments for placement on the grounds.
“It’s just a dangerous road to go down,” Cox said.