Oklahoma AG Fights Ten Commandments Ruling

     OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) – Oklahoma’s attorney general asked the state supreme court to reconsider its ruling that a privately funded Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol violates the state’s constitution.
     The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 7-2 on June 30 that the 6-foot-tall stone monument violates Article 2, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution: that “no public money or property” should be applied or donated for the use of any church, denomination, religious leader or sectarian institution.
     Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Tuesday that the court ignored the “profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments” and “contradicted previous decisions.”
     Representing the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission, Pruitt filed a reply to the plaintiffs’ response brief on his request for a rehearing and oral arguments on possible implications of the ruling on other state programs.
     Pruitt said it “appears entirely inconsistent” for the high court to rule that Article 2, Section 5, bans the use of public property “for any religious purpose” in this case, yet in a previous case allowed a large, lighted cross to be placed on public property “for an admittedly religious” purpose.
     “Appellants argue that this Court’s opinion is consistent with the Court’s prior opinion in Meyer v. Oklahoma City,” Pruitt’s 7-page filing states. “But there is no rational reading of Meyer that supports a 50-foot-tall, lighted cross as not serving ‘any religious purpose.’ In fact, this Court acknowledged the sectarian purposes of the persons who erected the cross.”
     Pruitt accused the court of crafting a “per se ban” on Ten Commandment displays on all state property.
     “Appellee knows of no other place in the United States having such a rule,” he wrote. “Appellee would urge this Court to reconsider analogous state and federal provisions and cases before holding that such a per se ban exists. Indeed, this exact version of the Ten Commandments has been ruled constitutional by the United States Supreme Court; the United States Courts of Appeal for the Ninth, Eighth, and Fifth Circuits; and the Colorado Supreme Court.”
     Pruitt said the court’s “ignor[ing] of its own precedent” will put in jeopardy Medicaid dollars spent at religiously affiliated hospitals and state scholarships awarded for religiously affiliated colleges.
     “The court previously upheld as constitutional a 50-foot tall lighted cross on public property and blessed the construction of a chapel at a state-owned orphanage,” Pruitt said in a statement Tuesday. “Now the court is bucking its own precedent and misconstruing a section of the state constitution that permitted those displays to order the removal of the privately funded Ten Commandments display. This ruling has implications far beyond the placement of the monument.”
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma sued the state on behalf of three citizens who objected to the monument at the Capitol. Its legal director, Brady Henderson, called Pruitt’s arguments “alarmist” and a “red herring.” The ACLU says the state constitution limits the government’s power to endorse specific religious ideas, while protecting people’s right to free speech.
     “The monument can be given back to its donor and relocated to private property,” the ACLU said in a statement Monday. “In fact, if the monument is placed on private property and that placement is ever challenged, the ACLU stands ready to defend the constitutional rights of the owners of the private monument.”
     Pruitt’s filing came a week after Gov. Mary Fallin said the monument will not be removed until legal appeals and “potential legislative and constitutional changes are considered,” despite the supreme court’s ruling .

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