In 2009, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill allowing a monument of the Ten Commandments to placed at the capital. The monument was not paid for by the state, but was donated by the sponsor of the bill, Mike Ritze, and his family recently reported The Economist.
It was erected in November, 2012. That’s when the trouble started.
The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Oklahoma for violating a section of state law that forbids the use of public property to support any system of religion “directly or indirectly.”
Recently, the New York based Satanic Temple began a campaign to donate a monument of its own to be place next to the Ten Commandments. Lucien Greaves is a spokesman for the Temple. He says the organization has received “a huge outpouring of support from folks in Oklahoma,” and sees no reason why the design should be rejected. Its monument would appease the ACLU’s concern that by having a Ten Commandments monument Oklahoma is favoring one faith over the others.
Two legal precedents may stop the new structure.
- Van Orden v Perry The Supreme Court held that the Ten Commandments “have an undeniable historical meaning” as well as a religious one. It also found that a message does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of “an establishment of religion” simply because it has some religious content.
- Pleasant Grove v Summum The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a city need not allow displays from one religion just because it has already permitted a display from another.