Lawmaker renews Ten Commandments fight

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Another year at the capitol means another fight brewing over the state's most controversial statue.

Newly elected Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair) wants voters to have another chance to bring the Ten Commandments monument back to capitol grounds.

"Oklahomans want to be able to display the Ten Commandments," Bergstrom told NewsChannel 4. "I think it is on peoples’ minds, and I think it is something we can fix pretty easily."

Senate Joint Resolution 15 would ask voters to decide if public money or property can be used for the monument.

The bill specifically requires the monument to be proportionate to other monuments and have only the text of the Ten Commandments.

The specificity is a way to simplify the issue for voters, who shot down State Question 792 in November.

That was a broader proposal to allow public money and property to be used for any religious purpose.

"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 said. "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."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought the monument for years, doesn't see much difference.

"It essentially is a legislator telling the people of Oklahoma, ‘No, you’re wrong. I want to give you another chance to decide it my way,'" said Brady Henderson. "There’s a hazard in doing that, and the hazard is it literally picks one religion over the others."

Plus, Henderson anticipates an uphill legal battle for the bill, especially after a 2015 state Supreme Court ruling.

"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," he said. "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."

Bergstrom, a former teacher, said he has other bills written up to address those pressing issues.

But, he insists the statue - which he said conveys values held by all faiths - is important to his constituents.

"This is just another thing that we can deal with as lawmakers, to do what it is that the people of Oklahoma want," he said. "This idea that just because some people might be offended by that that we can’t do it I think is taking political correctness to an extreme, and we just need to avoid that."

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