Oklahoma lawmakers have passed a measure that asks voters to consider returning a monument of the Ten Commandments to the grounds of the state capitol.
House Joint Resolution 1062, which is sponsored by state Rep. Randy Grau, passed by a vote of 86-10 on March 9, and was sent to the Senate for consideration, according to KFOR-TV. If it is adopted there, it will appear on a statewide ballot for Oklahoma residents to vote on whether to amend the state constitution, which currently states that "public money or property cannot be used directly or indirectly for any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion."
The state's Supreme Court cited this article of the constitution in its ruling to remove the monument, a 6-foot-tall granite depiction of the original Ten Commandments sent down by God in the Christian faith, which was erected in 2012 after a Republican-controlled legislature approved it in 2009. After it went up, other religious groups, including the New York-based Satanic Temple, sought to place their own statues on the grounds of the capitol.
Proponents of the article in the Oklahoma Constitution, such as Ryan Kiesel of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, argue that the monument is a political appeal to religious voters, and that it demonstrates unfair support for one religion when the government is supposed to retain a separation between church and state, reported Associated Press.
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"As we expected, the Oklahoma House of Representatives took time away from real issues Wednesday to hold a campaign rally dressed up as a Sunday School class,” Kiesel said, according to KFOR-TV. "Meanwhile, the budget crisis remains, the future of education is in peril, women continue to be marginalized, and health care remains an unaffordable luxury for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Oklahoma can do better."
Others, however, have advocated removing the article on the basis of religious support from the majority of Oklahoma residents, as well as legal precedent.
"When we learned that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol, everyone was surprised," Grau said. "Our state’s highest court misinterpreted the Constitution, and we had no choice but to send the question to the people of Oklahoma regarding the public display of such monuments. Today, the House voted overwhelmingly to do that."