November 2014 Church & State | AU Bulletin

A controversial Ten Commandments display may stand at the Oklahoma State Capitol, a state judge has ruled.

District Judge Thomas Prince found that because the monument is privately funded, its display does not violate the First Amendment. Prince also stated that the monument serves a primarily secular purpose.

The Durant Democrat reported that State Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow) provided nearly $10,000 to fund the monument. In 2009, Ritze also sponsored the bill that initially called for the monument to be built. Since its construction in 2012, the monument has been targeted by lawsuits. Its display also inspired applications for other religiously-themed monuments from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Satanic Temple and the Universal Society of Hinduism, among others.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the case will now be appealed to the state supreme court. The group brought a lawsuit challenging the monument on behalf of three plaintiffs, including former Americans United trustee the Rev. Bruce Prescott.

In a public statement, Brady Henderson, the legal director of the ACLU’s Oklahoma affiliate, said, “The plaintiffs in this case do not seek the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the state capitol lawn because they find the text of the monument offensive, but rather because, like many Oklahomans, the Ten Commandments constitute a core part of their sincerely held religious beliefs and it is offensive to them that this sacred document has been hijacked by politicians.” 

The case is Prescott, et. al. v. Capitol Preservation Commission.