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Oklahoma governor considers changing constitution to keep Ten Commandments statue

By Danielle Haynes
Oklahoma governor considers changing constitution to keep Ten Commandments statue
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin wants to change the state constitution so a state of the Ten Commandments can legally remain on the state capitol grounds. Photo courtesy ACLU of Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY, July 7 (UPI) -- A statue of the Ten Commandments will remain on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds while Gov. Mary Fallin considers rewriting the state's constitution to make the presence of the monument legally permissible.

Fallin issued a statement Tuesday saying that in addition to filing an appeal of the Oklahoma Supreme Court's order to remove the statue, she wants to make sure it's clear the monument is legal according to the Oklahoma Constitution.

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"The Ten Commandments monument was built to recognize and honor the historical significance of the Commandments in our state's and nation's systems of laws," she said. "The monument was built and maintained with private dollars. It is virtually identical to a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol which the United States Supreme Court ruled to be permissible.  It is a privately funded tribute to historical events, not a taxpayer funded endorsement of any religion, as some have alleged."

Last week, the state's highest court ruled the statue must be removed in accordance with the state constitution, which bans the use of public property "for the benefit of any religious purpose." Even though the Ten 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 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 Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol did not violate the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.

But the Oklahoma Supreme Court said the U.S. Constitution wasn't the issue, it was the fact that the statue violated Article 2, Section 5 of the state's constitution.

So Fallin wants to change the constitution.

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"During this process, which will involve both legal appeals and potential legislative and constitutional changes, the Ten Commandments monument will remain on the Capitol grounds," she said Tuesday.

She said the state legislature has shown support for her push to change the constitution. If changes are made, Fallin said, the people of Oklahoma will vote on the issue.

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