Oklahoma lawmakers are fighting over what has been described as the state's most controversial issue: whether to put a replica of the Ten Commandments in front of the state Capitol building.
Although the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a religious symbol on government property violated the U.S. Constitution in 2015 and then voters rejected a measure to put the Ten Commandments on Oklahoma State Capitol property in 2016, determined lawmakers insist on bringing the issue back in 2017, according to KFOR.
But this time around, lawmakers aim to define the Ten Commandments as a "historical document," along with such items as the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Oklahoma Constitution.
WFOR reports that House Bill 2177 would allow cities, schools and municipalities to display these "historical documents, monuments and writings" in public buildings and on public grounds.
And the bill easily passed the Oklahoma House legislature 86 to 10.
"When we learned that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the Ten Commandments monument removed from the Capitol, everyone was surprised," said Republican State Rep. Randy Grau, an attorney and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, according to KFOR. "The ruling went against clear legal precedent supporting the placement of such monuments on government property. 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."
State Rep. John Paul Jordan said he was delighted that state lawmakers were able to pass a bill for a measure that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had already ruled against and that voters struck down.
"For me it was important to repeal Art. II, Sec. 5, not just for the Ten Commandments, but also because of the long ranging consequences of the State Supreme Court’s decision in Prescott will have," Jordan said. "The new interpretation of this provision can potentially make our state hostile to religion and have damaging impacts on our counties, cities and school districts. This impact has already been felt in Johnston County, where the ACLU filed a lawsuit based solely on Art. II, Sec. 5, and forced the removal of their Ten Commandments monument."
In 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that religious symbols, including the Ten Commandments, cannot be placed on government property, including courthouses.
"The touchstone for our analysis is the principle that the 'First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion,'" Justice David H. Souter wrote in the majority opinion, citing previous court rulings, according to Fox News.