Oklahoma rejects Ten Commandments

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Rembrandt, Moses Breaking the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments

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Rembrandt, Moses Breaking the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments

Rembrandt, Moses Breaking the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments

Rembrandt, Moses Breaking the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments

The monument that’s been sitting on the grounds of the state capitol for the past three years, that is. Yesterday, by a whopping 7-2 margin, the state supreme court took just a few paragraphs to rule that the monument has got to go because it violates Article 2, Section 5 of the state constitution, which reads:

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 monument was paid for with private funds, so it was the public property (capitol grounds) that created the problem, having been used to support the Judeo-Christian system of religion. The Ten Commandments, said the court, “are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”

Article 2, Section 5 is what’s come to be known as a Blaine Amendment,” after an amendment to the U.S. Constitution introduced in 1875 by Rep. James G. Blaine (R-Maine). The amendment was intended to end political efforts to secure funding for private religious schools, most of which were Catholic — and anti-Catholicism lay behind much of its support. While it narrowly failed to win congressional approval, versions of it were subsequently incorporated into a number of state constitutions.

Among the latter was Colorado, where anti-Catholicism was in evidence when it wrote its first constitution the following year. The Colorado Supreme Court’s rejection of a county school voucher plan earlier this week dismissed the argument of voucher supporters that the provision should be ignored because of the Blaine Amendment’s bigoted origin, based on an earlier determination that “’constitutional provisions must be declared and enforced as written’ whenever their language is ‘plain’ and their meaning is ‘clear.’”

But while conservative advocacy organizations like the Becket Fund consistently use the anti-Catholicism at work in Blaine’s original amendment to delegitimize state Blaine Amendments, in many states there’s no evidence that anti-Catholicism played a role in their drafting. That’s the case in Oklahoma, which incorporated a “Blaine Amendment” into its first constitution as a federally mandated condition for statehood fully three decades after the original Blaine Amendment.

Responding with disappointment to the Oklahoma ruling yesterday, Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt claimed that the monument was merely intended to manifest the historical significance of the Ten Commandments. If historical significance is what they care about, perhaps they should instead celebrate Article 2, Section 5, both as a living memorial to the founding of their state and as a tribute to America’s first Baptists, who were devoted to strict church-state separation. In Oklahoma, Baptists outnumber every other religious group by orders of magnitude.

  • Larry

    Had they not nixed the Satanic and Hindu monuments, there was a pretty good chance that the state could have kept the 10 commandments under the guise of religious neutrality by way of ecumenicism. But sectarian prejudices got the better of them.

    Usually the best course of action for defending religious symbols on public ground is to give them a little company. If you can cough up another religious symbol or 3 you can say you are embracing the religious beliefs of the community in a general fashion. Showing favoritism to none. But that rankles the feathers of fundamentalist types who want to pretend they own governments.

    This is why fundamentalists can’t have nice things.

  • Fran

    So has most of the world rejected the Ten Commandments and the instructions given by Jesus to love our fellowmen as ourself and to even love our enemies (Matthew 5:43,44).

    As the apostle Paul so truthfully said, “For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Such is our entire world today, resulting from man’s increasing hate, racism and prejudice as well as his corrupt governments and systems. ?

  • Zoolady

    It’s very clear that religious monuments have no place in publicly-funded venues.

    Period!

    Want to erect a tablet with religious sentiments? Great! Do it on your church lawn or in your yard at home. Government should not endorse religion of any type. We’re not all Christians, you know, and shouldn’t have to participate in your religious displays.

  • MyNameJeff

    Humanity is at a much better place today than it has ever been before (not environmentally though of course).