Deep-Sixing the Ten Commandments. The Oklahoma Story.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by wikimedia commons Museum Catharijneconvent

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by wikimedia commons Museum Catharijneconvent

I know more about the Oklahoma Ten Commandments Monument story than my sense of responsibility to the people I worked with will allow me to say.

I’ve put off writing about it because, to be honest, I get angry every time I think about it.

But I finally chased myself around my house a few times and wrestled myself into my chair and wrote a post for Catholic Vote. I didn’t tell all. Not even close. But I think I told more than you’ll find elsewhere.

I. Am. So. Glad. I’m. Not. In. Office.

Here, from Catholic Vote, is part of what I said:

Ten Commandments monuments stand outside courthouses and statehouses all across the USA. They go back to the beginning of our country. This is fitting, since the legal structure of the Western world is built on those ten commandments.

For the first two hundred years of our republic, the only controversy was an occasional argument about whether the monument would be made of marble or granite. But for the past 30 years pressure groups have been working to drive religious expression from the public sphere.

The United States Supreme Court stopped them from acting as an American Taliban, blowing up historic monuments and statues because they had religious meaning attached to them. Otherwise, I suppose they would have kept going until they demanded that we burn the Declaration of Independence for its allusion to “Our Creator.”

Federal courts have upheld the placement of Ten Commandments monuments in states such as Texas. Oklahoma State Representative Mike Ritze assumed that a Ten Commandments monument that was identical to one that passed court muster in Texas would be allowed in Oklahoma.

Rep Ritz is the primary author of the legislation authorizing the monument. Rep Ritz was passionate about this bill. He was so committed to it that he even paid for the monument with his own money and donated it to the state as a gift.

I was a member of the Oklahoma House when we voted on it. Rep Ryan Kiesel, who is now the executive director of the Oklahoma ACLU, led the debate against the bill.

Without Rep Kiesel, I don’t think there would have been any debate at all. But he successfully convinced a number of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus that this bill was unconstitutional under the Constitution of the United States of America. They followed him in opposing the monument, and several of them were defeated because of it in the next election. Rep Kiesel did not run for re-election.

It turned out that Rep Kiesel was wrong. The monument was not unconstitutional under the Constitution of the United States of America.

That’s why the same Rep Kiesel chose another line of attack in his new position as Executive Director of the Oklahoma ACLU.

Read the rest here.

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Oklahoma’s Supreme Court Orders 10 Commandments Plaque Removed from Capitol Grounds.

oklahoma-state-sealOklahoma’s State Supreme Court has ordered the removal of a 10 Commandments monument that was commissioned statutorily by the Oklahoma legislature from state capitol grounds.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt argued that the monument was nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the United State Supreme Court. The court ruled that the monument violated the Oklahoma Constitution, rather than the United States’ Constitution.

The Attorney General is considering what other options he might have in this case. among those options are amending the Oklahoma Constitution in the next legislative session. Here is the AG’s statement:

“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.”

Also from

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”

The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay. It prompted calls by a handful of Republican lawmakers for impeachment of the justices who said the monument must be removed.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state’s constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. The Attorney General Office’s has filed for a rehearing in the case.

Private funds were used to erect the monument in 2012. Since then, others have asked for space, including a Nevada Hindu leader, animal rights advocates, the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a group pushing for a Satan statue.


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Supremes Dump Oklahoma Court Case and I Am Bummed About It


There are times when I get up and walk off the House floor.

I go to my office and tell my secretary not to let anyone in. Or, I will go wandering around the rotunda.

But I get away from the mike on my desk and its ever-beckoning invitation to let fly and say whatever I want.

Because what I would want to say in that heated moment is not what I would want to say later, after the dust has settled and I’ve found my inner sane.

I am in a similar situation now, which is why I am not going to weigh in on the only bit of news today that has anything directly to do with me. Because I know that what I would say now is not what I would want to have said later.

Sometimes, it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided not to hear a case based on an Oklahoma law concerning the prescribing of drugs used in chemical abortions. I co-authored an amicus curiae brief in favor of this law, along with my friend House Majority Leader Pam Peterson. That’s why I’ve been mum on this case up until now.

I will talk about it more. Later.

For now, here are a few facts (which I will have some thoughts about in the future) from the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court left in place Monday a decision by Oklahoma’s highest court that a major provision of that state’s new abortion law is unconstitutional because it effectively bans all medication abortions.

The high court last summer had tentively agreed to consider the issue but asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court for clarification on exactly what the law proscribes. The Oklahoma court issued an opinion last week that the law would effectively end the early-term practice of medication-induced abortions, and was thus unconstitutional.

Upon receiving the Oklahoma opinion, the Supreme Court then announced Monday that it will not schedule the case for briefing and consideration. As is customary, the justices gave no reason for deciding not to hear the case.

It is clear, however, that there are other ways for the issue to reach the Supreme Court. A number of states have passed similar restrictions on medication abortions, and the issue is working its way through the courts.

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