A lawsuit filed against the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol will continue after a federal judge rejected the state’s motion to dismiss the case. The state’s argument was, to put it mildly, quite absurd.
Basically, the state argued that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Van Orden v Perry was the controlling precedent and that it made the monument constitutional, but that’s simply ridiculous. In Van Orden, the 10C monument was one of 17 different monuments on the grounds of the statehouse and it had been there for more than 50 years. On the same day that the court handed down that ruling approving of that monument, it handed down another ruling in a Kentucky case (McCreary County v ACLU) dealing with a solo display put up by itself. It overturned that display. That precedent is much more applicable here than Van Orden. The judge ruled as such:
It is the context in which a monument exists that plays a significant role in whether or not a monument runs afoul of the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court in Van Orden recognized this fact as it noted the monument challenged in that case was in a large park containing 17 monuments and 21 historical markers all designed to illustrate the “ideals” of those who settled in Texas. The presence of other monuments created a context in which the display promoted historical significance, rather than solely religious belief. As Justice Breyer noted in his concurring opinion in Van Orden, the courts must exercise their legal judgment and consider the physical setting of the monument, examining the overall context in which it resides.Here, the factual allegations made by Plaintiffs assert the challenged monument stands alone. That is a far different circumstance for placement of the monument than that at issue in Van Orden. Thus, contrary to Defendants’ argument, this case is not the same as Van Orden and Defendants’ motion will be denied on the Establishment Clause claim.