Another Spat About A Religious Monument
The current religious brouhaha in the Sooner State pertains to a religious monument that has been set up on the grounds of the state’s capitol.
Here is an excerpt of a June 30th AP report published by ABC News:
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.”
Defenders of the monument deny its overtly religious nature. In a commentary for the Red Dirt Report, political scientist and Oklahoma native Brian Woodward writes, “Among many of the flawed arguments that lawmakers are making regarding why the monument should be allowed to stand is that it is not a symbol of a religion but one of historical importance to this country. Somehow, they claim, Western law is significantly based on these commandments.”
In a commentary for FindLaw.com, law professor Marci Hamilton writes, “The claim that the Ten Commandments are the foundational source of American law defies history.” She concludes her commentary by saying, “When it comes to legal and religious history, Americans have proven themselves to be woefully ignorant. How else could such untruth about the Ten Commandments’ status as an influence on our law be so widely and uncritically repeated and accepted?”
Defenders of the monument in Oklahoma cite the SCOTUS case of Van Orden v. Perry as justification for allowing the monument to remain where it is, but they overlook the SCOTUS case of McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, which also deals with a display of the Ten Commandments. In the former case, a display of the Ten Commandments stood among 21 historical markers and 17 monuments surrounding the Texas State Capitol. In the latter case, a display of the Ten Commandments stood alone on government property, which is the current situation in Oklahoma. In the former case, the Court permitted the display to remain where it is. In the latter case, the Court ruled against the display being where it was.
This author will leave it to the reader to decide who is correct in this particular spat. Meanwhile, the author will be munching on plenty of popcorn while watching this dispute make its way through the legal system.
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Feature Image: Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law, Rembrandt (1659). Image in public domain and retrieved from Wikipedia Commons.