Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision pressing for removal of a monument honoring the Ten Commandments and a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings have drawn a critical statement from state Republican Party Chairman Randy Brogdon.
In at least the case of the state High Court’s 7-2 ruling, Republicans are edging toward action to reverse the decision’s effect.
A former state Senator from Broken Arrow, Brogdon on Tuesday (July 7) sent a statement to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations, saying: “For decades, Democrats and Progressives have been aggressively working to undermine the foundation of Americanism. Sadly, the protection of life and liberty has become a trivial pursuit to many.
“Liberals have patiently and persistently dismantled the foundational building blocks of our way of life. The evidence of which can be found in the recent controversy surrounding the courts.
“Last week, Oklahoman's took not one, not two, but three, knock-down punches to the gut.
And most recently, the Oklahoma Supreme court ruling that the Ten Commandments must be removed from the State Capitol grounds.
“These rulings are an all out assault on all things moral and spiritual. It goes even further than that inasmuch, self-governance and justice appears to no longer be important to the courts.”
In his statement, Brogdon pointed out, “In 2009, I was the Senate author of the legislation to place an historical monument of the Ten Commandments of the grounds of the State Capitol. Even though the bill passed with bipartisan super majorities in both houses and signed by a Democrat governor, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the monument to be removed.
“Their stated reason was the ‘Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.’ Let that soak in for a moment. The Oklahoma Supreme Court stated in effect, that if anything has any religious meaning, it is unconstitutional and must be extracted from the Capitol grounds.
“They cited Article 2 Section 5 [of the state Constitution] to render their opinion. It states: ‘No public money shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used...for the benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or support any priest, preacher, or minister.’
“An honest reading of the law, is to prevent tax dollars from being used to promote a church or leader of a church on state property.
First of all private funds were used to build the monument, and secondly, no church, denomination, or preacher is benefiting.
“The court had to ignore the obvious to come to their political decision, because it certainly isn't an honest, legal or rational reading of Article II Section 5.
“Some judges believe their responsibility is to interrupt the law, rather than to uphold the law as it is written. It is very troubling that any court justice would ignore the clear language of a law and impose their bias to interpret it rather than protect it. When a judge raises their right hand they swear to uphold the Constitution and anything else is a breech of their sworn duty.
“The court's latest ruling is a clear example of legislating from the bench. … The seven members who voted to take the monument down, offered their opinion without regard to the language in the Constitution.
“The Ten Commandments are as historically important to our system of government as is the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Articles of Confederation and The Declaration of Independence.
“The Oklahoma Supreme Court does not have the authority to change the historical significance of our basis of law as outlined in the Ten Commandments. Nor do they have the right to change the will of the people. But the people do have the right to change members on the court.
“We may have been knocked down by the court rulings but we're not, knocked out. I believe it's time for Republicans to fight the moral ignorance and political arrogance of the courts.
“The legislature is supposed to create the laws that protect the liberty of the people, and the courts are to be their guardian. Republican principles are still in vogue and it is high time we put them back on display.
“Defending and demanding limited government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility is and must remain the battle cry for the conservative.”
Also on Tuesday, Governor Mary Fallin said the monument honoring the Decalogue will stay in place at the northeast corner of the Capitol building while appeals and possible legal changes are under consideration.
Fallin said in a statement, “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. 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.
“Nevertheless, last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument was impermissible. Their decision was deeply disturbing to many in our Legislature, many in the general public, and to me.
“Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions.
However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government.
“At this time, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, with my support, has filed a petition requesting a rehearing of the Ten Commandments case. Additionally, our Legislature has signaled its support for pursuing changes to our state Constitution that will make it clear the Ten Commandments monument is legally permissible. If legislative efforts are successful, the people of Oklahoma will get to vote on the issue.
“During this process, which will involve both legal appeals and potential legislative and constitutional changes, the Ten Commandments monument will remain on the Capitol grounds.”
On Monday, state Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, filed a constitutional amendment for consideration during the 2016 session which would, if voters agree, remove the language in Article II, section V. In a statement, he said,
“After reviewing the Supreme Court’s Ten Commandments ruling, it is clear that we have a toxic provision in our state Constitution. It was written with discrimination in mind, and like a malignant tumor, needs to be removed completely.
“I am under the opinion the court’s strict interpretation of the language of Article 2, Section V could have far reaching implications. It could possibly lead to the Native American artwork in the Capitol and State Supreme Court buildings being removed as much of it is religious in nature.
In addition, it could lead to individuals on state funded insurance programs being unable to receive medical care as a large portion of hospitals in Oklahoma are supported by a religious affiliation.
“Taken to an extreme it could even lead to churches, synagogues, mosques and other buildings used for religious purposes being unable to receive police and fire protection as they would be directly or indirectly benefitting from public monies.”
Co-sponsors of the constitutional proposal include state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and Reps. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, Lewis Moore, R-Edmond, Casey Murdock, R-Felt, John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks, Mark McBride, R-Moore, Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, Jeff Coody ,R-Grandfield, and John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton.
Ritze, a co-author of the legislation that authorized the monument in the first place, said he would support Jordan’s measure.
Concluding Monday’s statement, Rep. Jordan said, “Ten Commandment monuments are commonplace in the United States and a widely understood historic basis for our system of law. It is important that we do not let the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision end this tradition in Oklahoma.”