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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Ten Commandments Fight Kept Alive in Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) - The Oklahoma Senate on Monday approved a ballot question to let voters choose whether to delete a section of the state constitution that the state supreme court used to order the removal of a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol.

Senate Joint Resolution 72, by state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, passed by a vote of 39-5. If approved by the state House, the question will appear on the general election ballot in November.

The privately funded 6-foot-tall stone monument was removed from Capitol grounds last year after the high court ruled in June that it violated 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.

Senate Joint Resolution 72 states: "This measure repeals Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution. This section prohibits the use of public money or property for sectarian or religious purposes."

Attorney General Scott Pruitt urged repeal after the court's June 2015 ruling.

Bruce Prescott sued the state in 2013, a year after the monument was installed and four years after it was approved by the Legislature.

Controversy over the monument boiled over when a man smashed his car into it in October 2014, destroying it and drawing condemnation from Prescott and his supporters.

The monument was quickly replaced.

Standridge told the Tulsa World that his bill "will give the final say to the citizens" of Oklahoma.

But state Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said the measure sets "a dangerous precedent."

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, said that if voters approve the ballot measure, it will result in more First Amendment lawsuits in Federal Court that the state "will almost certainly lose, and considerable expense, all the while continuing to play politics with the deeply held beliefs of Oklahomans instead of directing their attention to the fiscal crisis our state is facing."

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