“It’s flagrantly unconstitutional,” legal experts fear slew of lawsuits if state question passes

There’s a war over a Ten Commandments monument that used to sit outside the state capitol.

If one lawmaker has his way, it’ll sit there again after you vote in November. But some legal experts are warning that a vote for moving the monument back could mean a costly legal battle.

State Question 790 would change the wording of our state constitution to allow the monument on capitol grounds.

But there’s still one roadblock: the U.S. Constitution.

Outside a conservative think tank at 13th and Lincoln is the granite monument that sparked so much controversy just down the road. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it violated the state Constitution on display at the Capitol for using public money and property for religious purposes.

“They got it wrong because a strict interpretation of Article II, Sec. IV has made our state hostile toward religion,” Rep. John Paul Jordan said. Rep. Jordan wants that part of our Constitution out.

“We celebrate Christmas displays in towns like Chickasha and Yukon. We have In God we Trust written on our police vehicles,” Rep. Jordan said.He’s pushing State Question 790, which would open the Capitol grounds to any religious monument.

“I probably know what your next question is going to be: is whether or not I’m fearful we’d end up with a satanic monument? The truth is that I’m not,” Rep. Jordan said.

“It’s flagrantly unconstitutional,” attorney David Smith said.Legal experts say you can change our state law, but it doesn’t matter because of the establishment clause under federal law.

“It’s a little broader, but the concept is just the same.  You can’t use people’s tax dollars to promote or benefit religion,” Smith said.

State questions like this have passed before and got struck down in court.
Remember the Sharia Law question?
The state lost, and more than $300,000 taxpayer dollars went to the people who sued.

Some fear passing SQ790 will end the same way.

“We’re going to be paying lawyers instead of teachers… It’s real good politics, it plays well with folks back home, and it gets you votes whether it’s a good idea or not,” Smith said.

 

Full ballot title:

 

RESOLUTION OR BILL NUMBER:

SJR 72

CITATION:

Repealing section 5 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution

SUBJECT:

Constitutional prohibition against public expenditure and property use for religious purposes

ELECTION DATE:

 

BALLOT TITLE:

This measure would remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution. Article 2, Section 5 has been interpreted by the Oklahoma court as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol. If this measure repealing Article 2, Section 5 is passed, the government would still be required to comply with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution, which is a similar constitutional provision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming overly involved with religion.

SHALL THE PROPOSAL BE APPROVED?

FOR THE PROPOSAL

Yes:  __________

AGAINST THE PROPOSAL

No:  __________

STATUS:

Governor's Election Proclamation filed 08/22/2016, re: SQ790 - assigned election date is November 8, 2016