In your Separation of Church and State Nice Time, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol building has to be removed, because it violates the Oklahoma Constitution, never mind the U.S. one. Fans of Establishment Clause trolls the Satanic Temple aren’t sure whether to rejoice or be a little sad today, because now the group has no reason to push for the inclusion of its awesome statue of Baphomet giving his Satanic blessing to little children. Sadly, we have a feeling it will still be needed elsewhere.
The OK Supremes (which would be a great name for a band that does covers of OK Go and Diana Ross) held that the monument violated Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which states:
No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
Even though the monument was a gift from a private donor, the court held in a 5-2 decision that its presence at the Capitol nonetheless constituted a “use, benefit or support of a sect or system of religion,” so it has to go. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Oklahoma on behalf of four plaintiffs; in September 2014, a county district judge ruled the monument legal because it had “historical value,” but the state supreme court didn’t buy that reasoning, since the state Constitution is pretty insistent about its prohibitions. The decision notes that “Use of the words ‘no,’ ‘ever,’ and ‘any’ reflects the broad and expansive reach of the ban,” and the court also emphasized that even “indirect” benefits to religion are a no-no.
As a fun bit of trivia, the court dismissed the Legislature’s rationale for approving the monument, which depended on a case from Texas in which another similar Ten Commandments monument was found not to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. The Oklahoma court pretty much said, “So what?” because “the issue in the case at hand is whether the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument violates the Oklahoma Constitution, not whether it violates the Establishment Clause.” The “historical” argument didn’t fly either, since “the Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”
Dang. They noticed. Also, in another fun bit of trivia, the Oklahoma monument actually has eleven commandments on it. Go ahead, count ’em. At least they fixed the spelling errors.
If we were really, really cynical, we might suggest that, by emphasizing that its decision is based solely in the state Constitution, the OK Supremes (“Where Did Our Love Go Again?”) may have also provided the good Christian people (who care about history and the basis of the law) an out: All they need to do is to amend it, which can be done relatively easily — just toss in an exception to that meddlesome Article 2, Section 5, to allow a Ten Commandments Historical Monument. The thing would still be subject to federal lawsuits, but it would take a while for those to work their way through the courts, by which time who knows how many sins may have been prevented by the public reminders to observe the Sabbath and not kill anyone. And the Satanic Temple will have a place to try to put their lovely monument again.