Oklahoma Supreme Court denies rehearing, again orders removal of Ten Commandments statue

OKLAHOMA CITY, July 27 (UPI) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court again ordered the removal of a statue of the Ten Commandments from the state capitol grounds after denying an appeal Monday.

The nine justices turned down an appeal from the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission to rehear the case less than one month after the court originally ordered for the monument to be taken down.

The court said the Oklahoma Constitution — in Article 2, Section 5 — 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.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office, on behalf of the commission, filed the petition for a rehearing, arguing 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.

The justices voted 7-2 not to rehear the case.

“We carefully consider the arguments of the commission and find no merit warranting a grant of rehearing,” Chief Justice John Reif wrote in Monday’s ruling.

In early July, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she’s considering a move to rewrite the Oklahoma Constitution to make the monument legally permissible on state grounds.

“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.”

Prescott v. Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission

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