Tag Archives: monument

Oklahoma voters to decide on return of Ten Commandments

Oklahoma voters will decide in November whether to abolish an article of the state constitution so that a Ten Commandments monument can be returned to the Capitol grounds.

The House has voted 65-7 for a resolution calling for a statewide vote on whether to remove a constitutional prohibition on the use of state funds to support a religion.

The state Supreme Court relied on that section of the constitution in June when it ordered a 6-foot-tall granite Ten Commandments monument moved from the Capitol grounds.

The monument’s removal angered many Oklahomans, particularly Republican lawmakers who vowed to return the monument to state property.

“Since the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in June regarding the Ten Commandments monument, my constituents wanted to know what could be done,” said Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, an attorney who sponsored the bill in the House. “I knew it would be a difficult proposition to undo the ruling, so we looked at giving voters the opportunity to remove the basis for the ruling.”

Originally authorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2009, the privately funded monument has been a lightning rod for controversy since it was erected in 2012, prompting a lawsuit from Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister from Norman who complained it violated the state constitution.

Its placement at the Capitol prompted requests from several groups to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wanted to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard. A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also made requests.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which represented Prescott, has vowed another challenge in federal court if the statue is returned. ACLU Oklahoma’s Executive Director Ryan Kiesel, a former Democratic lawmaker, has accused GOP lawmakers of using the monument as a political gimmick.

Even if the Oklahoma voters decide to amend the constitution and return the monument to the Statehouse, Kiesel said it’s likely a challenge would prevail under the U.S. Constitution and Oklahoma taxpayers would be stuck footing the legal bill.

Civil rights groups oppose MLK monument by Confederate memorial

A proposal to erect a monument to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. atop Georgia’s Stone Mountain is getting a chilly reception from some of the civil rights groups that King worked with.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King co-founded, and the Atlanta and DeKalb branches of the NAACP said that they oppose placing a tribute to King near the figures of three Confederate leaders engraved on the mountain outside Atlanta.

The state authority that oversees the mountain and surrounding park said this week that a Liberty Bell replica atop the mountain would recall a famous line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. 

SCLC President Charles Steele questioned why the state would place a reference to King, “one of Georgia’s most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors?”

The carving is the largest relief sculpture in the world, beating out Mount Rushmore. Critics repeatedly have called for removing the images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback, and renewed those efforts following June’s mass shooting that killed nine members of a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Supporters of the Confederate battle flag rallied this summer at the giant stone landmark, which for years was the site of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings. 

The SCLC and NAACP leaders said the meeting with Deal will focus on removing Confederate symbols from Stone Mountain, but they also hammered the King proposal. 

“The proposal to include Dr. King is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues,” said John Evans, president of the DeKalb NAACP branch, in a written statement. “It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols.”

A Southern heritage group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, panned the King proposal this week, calling it “wholly inappropriate” to place a monument atop the mountain because of the site’s designation in 1958 as a Confederate memorial. 

Ten Commandments monument ordered to be removed from Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds

A six-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sat outside the Oklahoma State Capitol for several years is on its way out.

A panel that oversees artwork at the statehouse voted 7–1 to authorize the privately funded monument’s removal after the state’s highest court ruled that it violated the Oklahoma Constitution.

The Capitol Preservation Commission, which was named as a defendant in a lawsuit seeking the monument’s removal, voted to authorize the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to remove the one-ton granite monument.

“We’re going to meet with the builder who installed it and figure out the best way to remove it,” said OMES spokesman John Estus. “We’re also going to coordinate with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to address some ongoing security concerns that they have.”

The monument has been a source of controversy since it was erected in 2012. Several groups have since made requests to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wants to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard. A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also have made requests.

The original monument was smashed into pieces last year when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A 29-year-old man who was arrested the next day was admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed. A new monument was erected in January.

Several supporters of the monument attended the public meeting about the monument and complained about the commission’s actions. Former Republican state Rep. Mike Reynolds attempted to address the panel, but acting chairwoman Linda Edmondson declined to recognize him.

“This is an illegal meeting,” Reynolds argued.

Reynolds maintained that the commission only has the authority to approve or disapprove plans and that its power does not extend to areas outside of the Capitol building.

Estus said the monument will be removed by a court-ordered deadline of Oct. 12.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June that the monument’s display violates a constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.” A district court judge earlier this month ordered the monument to be removed within the next 30 days.

Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow whose family paid about $10,000 for the monument’s construction, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on what he plans to do with the sculpture.

A bill authorizing the monument was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, in 2009. A Norman minister sued to have it removed, arguing that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt fought to keep the monument, maintaining that it serves a secular — not religious — purpose.

Oklahoma court: Remove Ten Commandments monument at Capitol

A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on June 30.

Oklahoma’s highest court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”

The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state’s constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.

“Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong,” Pruitt said in a statement. “The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.”

Pruitt said his office would ask the court for a rehearing and request that the monument be allowed to stay until the court considers his request.

Since the original monument was erected in 2012, several other groups have asked to put up their own monuments on the Capitol grounds. Among them is a group that wants to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard.

A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group, and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also have made requests.

Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow whose family paid about $10,000 for the monument’s construction, pushed the bill authorizing the monument. He said Tuesday he hoped the attorney general would appeal the ruling.

The original monument was smashed into pieces in October, when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A 29-year-old man who was arrested the next day was admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed.

A new monument was built and put up again in January.

Monument to Mother Jones rededicated in Illinois

The monument to “the grandmother of all agitators” in Mount Olive, Illinois, has been rededicated.

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones requested burial among the rank-and-file workers in the Union Miners Cemetery when she died in 1930. 

More than $76,000 was collected to restore the 22-foot pink Minnesota granite obelisk erected in 1936. A state grant and donated labor helped spruce up the rest of the site.

Visitors to the Saturday ceremony included U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat who has suggested Mother Jones replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. 

Jones was a labor activist who organized strikes and co-founded the Industrial Workers of the World.

Mount Olive is planning a Mother Jones museum in a building housing city offices.

Satanists seek spot next to Ten Commandments on Oklahoma Statehouse steps

In their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including Satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument outside the Statehouse.

The Republican-controlled Legislature in a state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.

But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state’s Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.

“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”

Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000.

Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze, who spearheaded the push for the Ten Commandments monument and whose family helped pay the $10,000 for its construction, declined to comment on the Satanic Temple’s effort, but Greaves credited Ritze for opening the door to the group’s proposal.

“He’s helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could,” Greaves said. “You don’t walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that’s when you’re going to see us.”

The Oklahoma Legislature has taken other steps that many believe blur the line that divides church and state. The House speaker said he wants to build a chapel inside the Capitol to celebrate Oklahoma’s “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Several lawmakers have said they want to allow nativity scenes and other religious-themed symbols in public schools.

Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland, who plans to introduce one such bill next year, said many Christians feel they are under attack as a result of political correctness. He dismissed the notion of Satanists erecting a monument at the Capitol.

“I think these Satanists are a different group,” Cleveland said. “You put them under the nut category.”

Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, said if state officials allow one type of religious expression, they must allow alternative forms of expression, although he said a better solution might be to allow none at all on state property.

“We would prefer to see Oklahoma’s government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are,” Henderson said. “But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple’s proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint.”