CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin, state Representative Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) announced today the relocation of the Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma State Capitol to OCPA’s campus, located on private property ten blocks south of the capitol complex.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the monument to be removed from the Capitol grounds in June, saying the Oklahoma Constitution prohibited the state from displaying it. The state appealed that decision but could not get the Supreme Court ruling overturned.
Fallin thanked OCPA for housing the monument and said she would work with lawmakers to put a proposed Constitutional change to a vote of the people, allowing the monument to eventually return to the Capitol.
“My thanks go out to OCPA for providing a temporary home for the Ten Commandments Monument that is easily accessible to those visiting the State Capitol,” said Fallin.
“Moving forward, I believe the people of Oklahoma should have the opportunity to vote on a proposed Constitutional change to ensure that historical monuments like this one are not pushed out of public spaces. I strongly encourage lawmakers to take up this issue in the next legislative session.”
Fallin also offered thanks to Rep. Ritze, who raised the private dollars to create the monument and then gifted it to the state. Ritze said he would continue the push to bring it back to the Capitol by repealing the Blaine Amendment, the section of the Oklahoma Constitution cited by the court when it ordered the monument to be removed.
“I am pleased to allow the monument to remain near the Capitol at this time as a symbol of our work to repeal the Blaine Amendment,” said Ritze. “This monument is identical to many others upheld as constitutional by courts across the country, including the United States Supreme Court, and we will focus our efforts on restoring the monument to its rightful place.”
The Capitol-based monument with the “Decalogue” carved in granite attracted controversy throughout its time at the seat of government in Oklahoma. While many supported it, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma fought for its removal.
The stone was displaced from its mooring when a troubled young man smashed through it in an automobile in 2014. The ACLU decried the act of vandalism, but continued to press for removal of the restored monument.
News reports this week indicate the company that put the monument back in place at the Capitol needs to be paid for that second round of work. Under court order to remove the monument, the state government paid to have it lifted and transported to its new home.
The state Democratic party chairman, Mark Hammon, said in a prepared statement that Falllin and other Republican advocates of its Capitol tenure were “desperate to distract the public from her failed leadership and policies."
Michael Carnuccio, president of OCPA, told supporters in an email Wednesday (October 7), “OCPA understands that the intent of lawmakers and citizens is for the monument to be permanently displayed at the state Capitol. We will work to make Oklahoma a better place by providing a solution for our state, so our state’s leadership can remain focused on the important issues facing Oklahomans.”
OCPA is a public policy research organization that focuses on state-based issues from a perspective of limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy.
“OCPA has been committed to providing solutions to make Oklahoma a better state for more than 22 years,” said Michael Carnuccio, president of OCPA.
“Typically, we do so with fact-based research and ideas rooted in free enterprise and the rule of law. Today, however, we are pleased to provide a home for the monument while lawmakers pursue legislative solutions that allow it to be returned to the Capitol grounds.”
Carnuccio said his organization disagrees with the court’s ruling and that the monument can be legally and constitutionally displayed at the state capitol.
“The state Supreme Court cited the Blaine Amendment in its ruling, a provision originally designed to suppress Catholic education while allowing state funding of protestant-oriented schools,” said Carnuccio. “The state needs to repeal the Blaine Amendment, and we will work towards that goal.”
He said the organization would continue to support Governor Fallin and other elected state leaders as they work to rectify the court’s decision.
“In the meantime, we believe the Oklahoma Supreme Court should exercise judicial restraint and narrowly interpret the Blaine Amendment in the state’s Constitution,” said Carnuccio.