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Oklahoma Supreme Court orders removal of 10 Commandments at state capitol

By Danielle Haynes
Oklahoma Supreme Court orders removal of 10 Commandments at state capitol
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the presence of a monument of the 10 Commandments is unconstitutional. Photo courtesy the ACLU of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY, June 30 (UPI) -- A monument of the 10 Commandments must be removed from the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds, the state's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

The group of justices said the Oklahoma Constitution -- in Article 2, Section 5 -- bans the use of public property "for the benefit of any religious purpose." Even though the 10 Commandments monument was paid for with private funding, the court said it is on public property and benefits or supports a system of religion and is therefore unconstitutional.

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The 10 Commandments statue was ordered to be removed from the capitol grounds.

The office of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt argued the monument should remain, citing a 2005 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court said the presence of the 10 Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol did not violate the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.

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"The issue in the case at hand is whether the Oklahoma 10 Commandments monument violates the Oklahoma Constitution, not whether it violates the Establishment Clause," the Oklahoma ruling said.

Pruitt issued a statement saying "the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong.

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"The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law. Furthermore, the court's incorrect interpretation of Article 2, Section 5 contradicts previous rulings of the court," he said. "In response, my office will file a petition with the court for a rehearing in light of the broader implications of this ruling on other areas of state law. In the interim, enforcement of the court's order cannot occur. Finally, if Article 2, Section 5, is going to be construed in such a manner by the court, it will be necessary to repeal it."

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma along with the national ACLU represented the plaintiffs in the case.

The placement of the Ten Commandments Monument at the Capitol created a more divisive and hostile state for many Oklahomans, sending a message to some citizens that they are less than equal because of their religious beliefs," ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel said in a statement. "Today the Oklahoma Supreme Court recognizes that when the government literally puts one faith on a pedestal, it is an affront to one of the most fundamental protections of the Oklahoma Constitution, namely that all Oklahomans, regardless of the beliefs, stand before their government as equals."

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