You may remember that several months ago, Oklahoma State Representative Mike Ritze introduced a bill in the state legislature to recognize, “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma.” Unfortunately, Representative Ritze, an ordained Baptist minister, wants to recognize the legal foundation of our country by erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments.
This bill has one major problem: The U.S. legal system is not based on the Ten Commandments.
Obviously the ACLU thinks this proposal is problematic. Fortunately for us, the drafters of the Oklahoma Constitution provided some guidance on the subject. Article II, Section 5, of the Oklahoma Constitution provides even greater protection against government sponsored religion than the federal Establishment Clause. It says:
No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.
You would think that with a provision like this in the state constitution, a bill like H.B. 1330 would be dead on arrival. In Oklahoma, you’d be wrong. Senator Randy Brogdon and other supporters of the bill are trying to argue that the 10 Commandments are a historical document and not a religious one. I think there are a lot of reverends and rabbis around the country that would disagree with them, but apparently the bill’s supporters have been persuasive in Oklahoma City.
There are some senators and representatives in Oklahoma who believe that this bill is unconstitutional, and will cost their state money both for the monument itself and for the legal challenges that could follow the bill’s passage. While Oklahoma’s budget is better off than many other states, money is still in short supply.
Recently it was reported that Oklahoma is $900 million in the hole this year and may be forced to cut all government programs by as much as 14 percent across the board. Some Oklahoma legislators, like Rep. Mike Brown, have their priorities straight. He said, “there needs to be a stop to running frivolous bills, while there are very important ones waiting.” He’s right. The tax payers of Oklahoma should be very upset that their legislators are wasting their time and potentially millions of their dollars on bills like H.B. 1330 when there are far more important issues for them to address during their short session.