Okie Dopey: State Legislator Wants To Display 'Oklahoma Version' Of Ten Commandments

"Probably an Oklahoma version, I imagine." –Sen. Randy Brogdon, on which version of the Ten Commandments he would place on the Capitol grounds

OK. OK. I know it's not nice to keep making fun of the right-wing legislators of Oklahoma. Other states have loopy lawmakers too. It's just that the Sooner State seems to have more than its share.

Earlier this week, the AP reports, the Senate General Government Committee approved a bill that allows a Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the Capitol grounds.

A lot of you might think that clearly violates separation of church and state. But according to Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso), you'd be wrong.

A Commandments monument, he told fellow committee members, would simply recognize the historical importance of the Decalogue and has "nothing to do with religious viewpoints."

Now there's a thought for you! The Ten Commandments, a core set of teachings in the Jewish and Christian faiths, has "nothing to do with religious viewpoints"! Try that with your average rabbi, priest or minister and see how far you get.

But Brogdon, a fellow traveler of the John Birch Society, wasn't through with his theological blundering. Asked which version of the Commandments would be posted on the monument, the senator gave a truly unique answer.

"Probably an Oklahoma version, I imagine," said the Sage of Owasso. "Something that would suit us."

Now there's an original theological proposition for you! We know there are at least three quite different versions of the Commandments – Jewish, Catholic and Protestant – with lots of minor variations in different translations of the Bible.

To all of those, we can now add Sen. Brogdon's "Oklahoma version" – call it the Revised Sooner Version!

Brogdon's committee colleagues rightly commenced to make fun of the proposed new Brogdon Decalogue. One senator thought one commandment should read "You-all shall not kill." Another suggested "y'all shall not kill" would be better.

I'd add: "Y'all shall not make unto thee any graven image" -- and that includes politically motivated religion monuments.

All fun aside, the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act (HB 1330) has already passed the House, and now that the Senate committee has acted, it heads to the Senate floor, probably next week.

In the meantime, the forces of reason are rallying.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent a letter to the legislature opposing the measure.

The Rev. Bruce Prescott, executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, and AU State Legislative Director Dena Sher jointly wrote, "Not only would a Ten Commandments monument likely be unconstitutional, but also having the State wade into deep theological questions surrounding the Ten Commandments seems like a very divisive and unwise policy."

And in yesterday's Tulsa World, Jim Langdon of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice argued, "The Ten Commandments monument idea is viewed as fundamentally unfair and justifiably intolerable by those tax-paying citizens whose religions do not embrace Christianity. Why would we consider stepping on a good neighbor's foot? Placement on state grounds implies state favoritism of one religion over another.

"By attempting to slight others," he said, "we slight ourselves. And at a time when the state faces a $600 million-plus budget shortfall, we can scarcely afford the protracted costs of inevitable lawsuits."

If appeals to neighborliness fail, maybe an appeal to the pocketbook will succeed. We shalt hope so.