Arkansas, Oklahoma Governors defend 10 Commandments monuments

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 200 views 

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Tuesday (July 7) defended a plan to place a 10 Commandments monument on State Capitol grounds, while also on Tuesday Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she will appeal a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that requires removal of a 10 Commandments monument on that state’s Capitol campus.

The 6-foot tall monument in Oklahoma was installed in 2012 and paid for by a Republican state representative. Controversy has surrounded the installation, with the Satanic Temple applying with Oklahoma officials to also place a monument on Capitol Grounds. The proposed monument features a 7-foot tall goat-headed creature that is flanked by children on both sides. Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said the monument would “complement and contrast the Ten Commandments monument that already resides on the North side of Oklahoma City’s Capitol Building.”

In a 7-2 ruling, Oklahoma Supreme Court justices said the 10 Commandments monument was “obviously religious in nature” and violated a state law banning religious symbols on state property.

Republican leaders in the Oklahoma Legislature said they will pass a resolution that would repeal the state’s Constitutional ban on faith-based monuments on state property. Fallin said she also plans a legal challenge.

“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. The monument was built and maintained with private dollars,” Fallin said in a statement. “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.”

Fallin said the Court’s decision was “was deeply disturbing to many in our Legislature, many in the general public, and to me.” She said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has filed for a rehearing before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

“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,” Fallin said.

Prior to the Oklahoma court ruling that the 10 Commandments monument must be removed, Greaves had said Arkansas is “appealing” as the next place to erect a satanic monument on Capitol grounds.

Earlier this year the Arkansas General Assembly approved a plan to use private money to place a 10 Commandments monument on State Capitol grounds. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway. Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, who cosponsored the bill, said it was patterned after other states including Oklahoma.

During a Tuesday morning press conference at the Arkansas State Capitol, Gov. Hutchinson defended the Legislature’s placement of a monument to the Ten Commandments because of the Commandments’ historical significance. He said he would have a problem with Hindu- and Satanic-related monuments.

“The Capitol grounds, we want to be careful as to what monuments and designations go there,” he said in this report from Talk Business & Politics. “I think the secretary of state has historically been careful. … We don’t want just every group putting a statue on the Capitol grounds. We want it to be exclusive, we want it to be reasoned, we want it to be reflective, and I think that’s one of the reasons it went through the legislative process.”

He said any new monument would have to go through a process where it was approved by the secretary of state or the General Assembly.

The U.S. Supreme Court has a mixed record on the issue. In 1980 the court struck down a Kentucky law requiring the 10 Commandments be posted in public school classrooms. Later, the court said 10 Commandment monuments on courthouse grounds in Kentucky represented “an unmistakably religious statement” and thereby were unconstitutional.

More recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a 10 Commandments monument in place for more than 40 years on Texas State Capitol grounds could remain. Justice Stephen Breyer, who voted to retain the monument, said the display was “borderline.”

“These recent decisions mean that – outside the school context – there is no bright-line test for Ten Commandments cases,” noted a statement from the Anti-Defamation League. “Rather, the legality of these displays will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Many of them will be found unconstitutional.”