Conservatives are seething in the aftermath of the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol building. In June, a lengthy battle over the monument ended when the state Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 landslide vote that the Christian symbol was a violation of the state constitution because public property was being utilized to promote a system of religion:
“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”
The ruling infuriated Governor Mary Fallin, who released a statement promising to fight progress at all costs:
“Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong. The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law. Furthermore, the court’s incorrect interpretation of Article 2, Section 5 contradicts previous rulings of the court. In response, my office will file a petition with the court for a rehearing in light of the broader implications of this ruling on other areas of state law. Additionally, we are requesting a stay of the enforcement of the court’s order until the court can consider the petition for rehearing. Finally, if Article 2, Section 5 is going to be construed in such a manner by the court, it will be necessary to repeal it.”
In the time since the Supreme Court decision, Fallin arrogantly refused to abide by the ruling, promising that the monument would stay in place as she explored other means of circumventing the requirement that the monument to Christianity be removed, with some lawmakers considering striking down the relevant portion of the state Constitution so that they could keep their precious idol in place.
Unfortunately for Fallin, no amount of complaining could stop the fulfillment of a court order that the statue be removed — intact — from its position on public property. On Monday night, to avoid interference by Christians, a contractor hired by the state began working to remove the six-foot, 4,800-pound Christian symbol. As workers did their jobs, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol increased security and barriers were erected to protect workers from interference.
“We wanted it to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doing it at night gave us the best opportunity to do that,” John Estus, spokesman for the company that performed the removal service, said. “The Highway Patrol was also very concerned that having it in the middle of the day could lead to having demonstrations of some kind.”
“Frankly, I’m glad we finally got the governor and attorney general to agree to let the monument be moved to private property, which is where I believe it’s most appropriate,” said Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister who opposed the monument. “I’m not opposed to the Ten Commandments. The first sermon I ever preached was on the Ten Commandments. I’m just opposed to it being on public property.”
The presence of the Christian monument also led other groups — including a satanic church that wanted to erect a seven-foot-tall statue of Baphomet, a Hindu leader, an animal rights group, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — to request their own monuments to accompany the Ten Commandments. Those requests, of course, are also unconstitutional as a result of the supreme court ruling.
Former state Rep. Mike Reynolds (R), who voted to authorize the monument in the first place and who almost assuredly screams his love for the Constitution in almost every other scenario, views the state constitution with disdain, now.
“This is a historical event,” Reynolds said. “Now we know we have to change the Constitution. It would be good to get rid of some of the Supreme Court justices, too.” Several Oklahoma legislators agree, and have promised to send an amendment to public vote that would remove the section of the state constitution that prohibits the use of public money and property for religious purposes, because that’s exactly what Jesus would want, or something.
“I think that today is an excellent day to expose the hypocrisy in our state government, whether it’s the Supreme Court, the attorney general or the governor’s office making bad decisions, it’s time for citizens to start looking for ways to change the process,” Reynolds said.
If conservatives are successful in changing the constitution and the monument returns, Brady Henderson of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has promised another lawsuit to ensure that the state can no longer promote one religion above all others.
Watch a report on the removal, below:
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.