OKLAHOMA CITY – The fight over a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol may not be over.
Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, has filed Senate Bill 1858 that would place privately funded Ten Commandments monuments inside and outside the Capitol “as a symbol of its historical significance for Oklahoman and American history.”
The measure states the monument, once placed, shall not be removed without a vote of three-fourths of the Legislature and approval of the governor.
The action comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the state must remove its Ten Commandments monument from Capitol grounds because it was religious in nature and violated the Oklahoma Constitution’s prohibition on using state funds or property to promote religion.
The privately funded 6-foot-tall, 2,000-pound red granite monument was removed in 2015 from the north side of the Capitol and taken to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which has an office just south of the Capitol. It remains on display there.
The state has retained ownership.
Bullard said it is time the monument is returned.
He said Oklahoma has a strong Christian heritage, and it’s important to honor it.
He said he believes a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court case paves the way for moving it back.
The case involved a high school football coach who prayed in the middle of the field after each game. His contract was not renewed and he sued. The court ruled that the school could not prevent him from engaging in a personal religious observance.
Also, in 2018, then Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2177 that would allow for the display of the Ten Commandments along with other historical documents on public property.
Bullard said he expects the measure to face opposition from those who “do not speak for the majority of Oklahomans who want to honor our Christian and constitutional heritage.”
Veronica Laizure, Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma deputy director and American Civil Liberties Union Oklahoma board president, said Bullard is misinterpreting the Supreme Court decision.
“It has been pretty well established that public grounds and public money should not be used for promotion of a single religious viewpoint,” she said. “This is clearly doing that.”
She said it is very disappointing the Oklahoma Legislature has chosen to spend its time on such a bill when Oklahomans are struggling with rising costs.
Adam Soltani, CAIR Oklahoma executive director, said displaying the monument on state grounds would marginalize people of minority religions and cause them to not feel equal when visiting the Capitol.
“We are ready to go to court if the Oklahoma Legislature is unwise enough to adopt this unconstitutional bill,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
Bullard’s measure would also make damaging the monument a felony.
In 2014, a man drove his vehicle into the monument, breaking it into several pieces. It was later restored.
The monument had to be fixed after it was installed in 2012 because Sabbath and maidservant were misspelled.
At least two other groups have indicated interest in placing a monument at the Capitol should the state allow the Ten Commandments to be erected.
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