OKLAHOMA CITY – Another year at the Capitol means another fight brewing over the state’s most controversial statue.
In 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments Monument that was housed at the Oklahoma State Capitol violated the Constitution. That decision led to the monument being removed from the Capitol grounds.
Last year, Oklahoma voters shot down a state question that would have allowed the Ten Commandments to move back to the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds.
State Question 790 would have removed a part of the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits the use of state resources for religious purposes.
Despite voters rejecting the question, some Oklahoma lawmakers continue to work to bring the monument back to the Capitol.
House Bill 2177 would allow cities, schools and muncipalities to display ‘historical documents, monuments and writings’ in public buildings and on public grounds.
The documents that could be displayed include the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Oklahoma Constitution and the Ten Commandments.
The bill, which was authored by Rep. John Bennett and Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, recently passed the House of Representatives.
This is the second bill Sen. Bergstrom authored dealing with the Ten Commandments.
“The defeat of the Blaine Amendment last year wasn’t so much against the Ten Commandments, but it was the possibility of all kinds of other things happening,” Bergstrom told NewsChannel 4 in January, regarding SJR 15. “There were a lot of people putting out things like ‘You’re going to have a spaghetti monster on the state Capitol, a satanic monument, all kinds of things like that, because how can you restrict that?’ And, I think that was a legitimate concern. I met a lot of people who told me they were concerned about that question. But, they liked the idea of the Ten Commandments being displayed.”
Although Senate Joint Resolution 15 did not pass through committee, House Bill 2177 has already passed its first hurdle.
The House approved the measure 79-11 on Tuesday night.
However, some critics say bills focusing on things like the Ten Commandments are wasting time and taxpayer money.
“And, so very likely, what you would have achieved at that point is to divide the state more and do it at a cost of at least several hundred thousand dollars in taxpayer money,” said Brady Henderson, with the ACLU of Oklahoma, told KFOR in January about SJR 15. “I think just as an Oklahoma taxpayer I’m frustrated simply given the fact that we have real problems in the state and the legislature seems to have a habit of taking political issues that are hot buttons for people and really use them to distract from actual issues.”
The bill’s language even states that if the constitutionality of the bill or a monument is challenged in court, the Oklahoma attorney general is authorized to “prepare and present a legal defense of the display.”
The bill now heads to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.