A monument to the Ten Commandments is once again at the center of a fight between the American Civil Liberties Union and Oklahoma lawmakers.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last June that a monument to the Ten Commandments on Capitol grounds violated a law barring preferences for “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.” The monument was moved in October to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs down the road, but now lawmakers argue the court’s ruling opened the door to new forms of religious discrimination.
“What is problematic with that opinion is it became very bad legal precedent,” state Rep. John Jordan, R-Yukon, told KFOR 4 on Monday. “Anything that has content that can be considered religious if it receives a benefit from the state either directly or indirectly, it now violates the state Constitution.”
Jordan and his allies will begin introducing bills to bring the monument back to the Capitol. They say banning Section 5 of Article 2 of the state’s constitution, which forbids use of public money or property for sectarian or religious purposes, would allow that to happen.
The ACLU labeled Jordan’s fears “silly,” the NBC affiliate reported.
“What’s different about the Ten Commandments monument isn’t that it just acknowledges religion, like some symbols at the Capitol, but that it actually commands a reader in exactly how to worship,” Brady Henderson, legal director for the ACLU of Oklahoma, said. “When you’re fair to everyone, there’s nothing that offends Article 2 of section 5. All this really says that as a state, you can’t discriminate. You can’t say, ‘We like this religion better than that one.’ When you do things in a fair way, there’s simply nothing to worry about there.”
State Rep. Emil Virgin, D-Norman, told the station that a protracted fight over the Ten Commandments monument was a reflection of “misplaced priorities.”
“I wish that we would focus on the big issues at hand that actually affect people’s lives,” Virgin said.