Okla. Governor Defies State Supreme Court

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Defying the state Supreme Court, Oklahoma’s governor refuses to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Capitol, calling the religious symbol a “tribute to historical events.”
     The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the 6-foot tall stone monument violates the Oklahoma Constitution, which states that “no public money or property” should be spent or donated for the use of any church, denomination, religious leader or sectarian institution.
     Bruce Prescott sued the state in 2013 over the monument, which was privately funded by state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and installed in 2012, with authorization from state lawmakers.
     After the state supreme court’s 7-2 ruling, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said: “Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong.”
     Pruitt said the relevant section of the Oklahoma Constitution, Article 2, Section 5, should be repealed if it “is going to be construed in such a manner,” and that his supreme court “completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.”
     Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday said the monument will not be removed until legal appeals and “potential legislative and constitutional changes are considered.”
     “The monument was built and maintained with private dollars,” Fallin said in a statement. “It is virtually identical to a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol which the United States Supreme Court ruled to be permissible. It is a privately funded tribute to historical events, not a taxpayer funded endorsement of any religion, as some have alleged.”
     Fallin said she was “deeply disturbed” by the court’s ruling, as were many state lawmakers and members of the public.
     “Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions,” she said. “However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government. At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.”
     Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz told Tulsa World the governor was not ignoring the ruling, but giving the other branches of government time to weigh in on the issue.
     ACLU of Oklahoma executive director Ryan Kiesel didn’t buy it, saying Fallin is charged with enforcing the law.
     “The Supreme Court did not give any leeway in their opinion,” Kiesel told the Tulsa World. “The bipartisan, seven-member majority did not say remove the monument except if you look into your crystal ball and think the law might allow it at some point in the future and go ahead and keep it. The court said, ‘Remove the monument.'”
     Kiesel added: “Frankly, I would be astonished if we get to a point where the governor outright defies an order of our state’s highest court,” he said. “That said, if she does, there is a word for it. It is called contempt.”
     Kiesel dismissed calls by some state lawmakers to impeach the seven justices who voted in the majority.
     “Just because you don’t agree with the decision of a court, it doesn’t mean the remedy should be impeachment,” Kiesel said. “I don’t think impeachment is in order.”
     Fallin, 60, and Pruitt, 47, were both elected in 2010. They are Republicans.

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