Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ten Commandments Not Down Yet

It seems I may have spoken too soon when I declared that the saga of the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument had come to an end. Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Ten Commandments Monument on the state capitol grounds that has been the center of controversy for several years must be taken down. But now Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin is ordering the monument to stay put pending an appeal.

Since the 7-2 ruling was handed down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, as far as I can tell the only place she could appeal the case is the Federal Supreme Court. And I can tell you exactly how that will go based on previous rulings. The Supreme Court will allow the monument, but only so long as all other religious groups have equal access. So Lucien Greaves may want to hold onto that Baphomet statue a little longer.

Fallin on Tuesday said the monument was staying while the state attorney general appeals last week's 7-2 decision declaring that the monument was unconstitutional because public property cannot be used for religious purposes. Legislators opposed to the ruling are considering amending the state constitution to allow the monument to stay.

"Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government," Fallin said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit challenging the monument and pursued it to the state Supreme Court, shrugged off Fallin's comments. Daniel Mach, director of the ACLU's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, told The Huffington Post he doesn't think the governor's statement disobeys the court decision.

"We fully expect the state to respect the rule of law and comply with the court's decision," Mach said. Brady Henderson, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said if Fallin defies the court decision, it would amount to "chaos."

"She hasn't violated her oath yet, but she has made a statement that she's willing to do so," Henderson said. "The highest elected official in the state is essentially saying, 'I am willing to break the law.' My hope is very much that this is political grandstanding."

As I've mentioned previously, my main concern here is that the law be applied equally. That means either the Ten Commandments monument can stay and monuments from other religions are allowed, or that no religious monuments may be placed on state grounds. Personally, I actually prefer an environment where a wide variety of religious beliefs can be represented as opposed to an outright ban, but unfortunately the latter sometimes becomes more practical when Christians try to get special treatment by gaming the system.

Perhaps the saddest thing about this whole situation is that Ten Commandments monuments like the one in Oklahoma City are in fact promotional items that were originally created to drum up publicity for the 1955 Charleston Heston film The Ten Commandments. And now we have lawmakers talking about a constitutional amendment that would allow them to display what started out as an advertisement.

Fallin is not going to get the ruling she wants because the case is in fact quite simple. Either all religions have to be allowed to put up monuments, or none can be allowed to do so. Neither the Constitution of the United States or the state of Oklahoma allows the government to have one set of standards for Christians and another for everyone else.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

No comments: