OKLAHOMA CITY – Four months after its removal, controversy still surrounds the Ten Commandments Monument.
Several bills are being introduced this session aimed at bringing the monument back to the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds.
It currently sits outside the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, at N.E. 13th and Lincoln.
That building is right down the road from the Capitol, which is why one lawmaker says the fight over the monument is ridiculous.
Other lawmakers say the section of the Oklahoma Constitution that called for the monument’s removal poses a bigger threat.
The American Civil Liberties Union led the fight to remove the Ten Commandments from the Capitol.
“What’s different about the Ten Commandments Monument isn’t that it just acknowledges religion, like some symbols at the Capitol, but that it actually commands a reader in exactly how to worship,” Brady Henderson, with the ACLU, said.
The ACLU argued that the monument’s placement violated Oklahoma’s Constitution.
In June, the state’s highest court agreed and the monument was removed.
“What is problematic with that opinion is it became very bad legal precedent for our state,” Rep. John Paul Jordan said.
Section 5 of Article 2 says use of public money or property cannot be used for sectarian or religious purposes.
Some lawmakers are pushing to get rid of that section and want the people to decide.
“Anything that has content that can be considered religious if it receives a benefit from the state either directly or indirectly, it now violates the state Constitution,” Rep. Jordan said.
Rep. Jordan says that means Medicaid funding could be prohibited from going to religious affiliated hospitals or could stop church from being held at public schools.
The ACLU calls those ideas “silly.”
“When you’re fair to everyone, there’s nothing that offends Article 2 of section 5. All this really says that as a state, you can’t discriminate. You can’t say, ‘We like this religion better than that one.’ When you do things in a fair way, there’s simply nothing to worry about there,” Henderson said.
Some legislators say fighting this issue is a waste of time.
“We have a litany of problems, but yet we’re worrying about the placement of a Ten Commandments Monument. That to me just reflects misplaced priorities and I wish that we would focus on the big issues at hand that actually affect people’s lives,” Rep. Emily Virgin said.
Rep. Jordan says the removal of the monument could also lead to the removal of Native American artwork and other religious symbols from the Capitol.
That is also something the ACLU disagrees with.