Contempt of Court: Oklahoma Governor Refuses to Remove Ten Commandments

Contempt of Court: Oklahoma Governor Refuses to Remove Ten Commandments July 8, 2015

Placing her religious beliefs above the law, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin defies a state Supreme Court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument on State Capitol grounds.

Despite a state Supreme Court decision issued last week stating that the Ten Commandments monument is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed, a defiant Governor Fallin is choosing to disobey the court order.

Last week, in a 7-2 decision, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the decalogue monument on capitol grounds unconstitutional, ruling the monument must be removed because the Oklahoma Constitution bans the use of state property for the benefit of a religion.

As one might expect, the conservative Christians dominating the Oklahoma GOP became apoplectic with rage over the ruling, with many calling for the impeachment of the state Supreme Court justices responsible for the decision.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Governor Fallin declared she would not honor the court decision:

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. At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.

During this process, which will involve both legal appeals and potential legislative and constitutional changes, the Ten Commandments monument will remain on the Capitol grounds.

Despite her words to the contrary, by failing to obey the court order, Governor Fallin is in effect ignoring the court order, and as such, she is in contempt of court.

Critics note Fallin is overstepping her authority as Governor. ACLU of Oklahoma executive director Ryan Kiesel told the Tulsa World:

The Supreme Court did not give any leeway in their opinion. The bipartisan, seven-member majority did not say remove the monument except if you look into your crystal ball and think the law might allow it at some point in the future and go ahead and keep it. The court said remove the monument.

While Kiesel told the Washington Post:

Governors do not get a blank check to make up the laws as they see fit. That’s not the way that our democracy works and the governor’s statement is unprecedented.

It creates the potential for a showdown between the legislative and judicial branches. If you refuse to comply with a valid and lawful order of the court, there’s a word for that: it’s contempt.

The Washington Post reports:

… it is highly unlikely that the state Supreme Court will agree to rehear the case, which has already spanned more than 2-years of litigation. The process of changing the state constitution, which requires putting those changes to a vote could take well over a year, he added.

If the court’s order remains in place during that time and Fallin refuses to remove the statue while waiting for constitutional changes, she could be in contempt of court.

By failing to obey the lawful order of the state Supreme Court, Governor Fallin is placing her conservative Christian religious beliefs above the law. She is not only in contempt of court, her actions express a contempt for the rule of law, a contempt for the American people, and a contempt for the secular values upon which this nation was founded.

(Image via Wikimedia)
(Image via Wikimedia)
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