Category: Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s Never-Ending Quest to Erect A Ten Commandments Monument at the State Capitol

As we first discussed in Devil Be Gone: Oklahoma and the Ten Commandments Monument, on June 20, 2015, in Prescott v. Capitol Preservation Commission,  the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol had to be removed pursuant to Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution.  This section states “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”

Immediately, members of the Oklahoma legislature called for the repeal of this section of the Oklahoma Constitution and to impeach the Supreme Court justices that voted against the Ten Commandments Monument in Prescott.  Now, there have not been any real attempts to impeach the Supreme Court justices, but House Bill 3162 was recently passed to significantly change the Judicial Nominating Commission (which was established decades ago in the wake of a bribery scandal among Supreme Court justices in the 1960’s).  The sponsor of this bill, House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, says the Judicial Nominating Commission’s power to select top judicial candidates has been greatly overdone and needs to be trimmed back, but in reality this was  not an issue until after the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Ten Commandments decision.

Similarly, the Oklahoma House and Senate have both passed bills to ask voters to repeal Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution.  Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon, whom I consider a personal friend, says “that if Article 2, Section 5, is not removed from the Constitution, a range of state activities that touch on religious institutions, including support for religious-affiliated hospitals, could be invalidated, particularly given the Supreme Court decision.”  And, to be fair to Rep. Jordan, that is a concern, but it is overstated and it is clear from the rhetoric immediately following the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision in Prescott that this is really about the Ten Commandments monument.  Besides, those that make this argument point to no Oklahoma case law to support their position.  In fact, there are two cases dealing with challenges brought under Article 2, Section 5 where the Oklahoma Supreme Court found that the maintenance of chapels for the use of the children in a state orphans home did not violate Article 2, Section 5 (State ex rel. Town of Pryor v. Williamson, 1959 OK 207) and where the maintenance by the city of a cross on the city’s fairgrounds did not violate Article 2, Section 5 either (Meyer v. City of Oklahoma City, 1972 OK 45).  I think it is fair to say that the fear that failing to repeal Article 2, Section 5 will result in Native American art being taken down or support for religious-affiliated hospitals being invalidated is overblown, at best.

The bottom line is, even if the people of Oklahoma vote in favor of repealing Article 2, Section 5 and the Ten Commandments monument is re-erected on the grounds of the State Capitol, it will likely all be for not.  Why?  Because, the Ten Commandments monument, most likely, also violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The First Amendment, in relevant part, states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  The First Amendment applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.    In Van Orden v. Perry, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a challenge to a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.  This Ten Commandments monument was nearly identical to the one that was on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the Supreme Court found that it was permissible for Texas to have it.  However, there are significant factual differences between the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument and the Texas Ten Commandments monument.  For example, the Texas Ten Commandments monument was a gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1961 and had been in place for 42 years before the lawsuit was filed challenging its placement.  Further, it was part of a display of seventeen monuments, all located on grounds registered as a historical landmark, and it was carefully located between the Supreme Court building and the Capitol building housing the legislative and executive branches of government.  The Supreme Court specifically mentioned the importance of these facts in determining that the Texas Ten Commandments monument was permissible.  By contrast, the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument has no history.  It was placed on the grounds of the State Capitol in 2012.  It was not donated to the State by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, or some other secular organization, but was paid for by the family of State Rep. Mike Ritze, who also authored the bill to allow for the Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the grounds of the State Capitol.  Further, this monument was not placed among many other historical monuments, but was placed in an isolated location far from the main entrance to the Capitol.  Because the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument is a new monument with no history, it is likely the Supreme Court would find it is in violation of the First Amendment.

I think it is fair to say that, clearly, these measures are in direct response to the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Ten Commandments decision and that is a shame.  The continued pursuit of placing the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol disenfranchises Oklahomans who are not Christian and is time consuming and expensive for the State to defend.  At a time when we have a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, wasting money defending a monument that is more than likely unconstitutional seems like a waste of time and resources.

Natural Born Citizen and who can be President of the United States?

Recently, the question of who is Constitutionally eligible to serve as President of the United States has become a national issue.  There were those that claimed President Barack Obama was ineligible to be President, because he was actually born in Kenya and those that argued “natural born citizen” meant both parents had to be United States citizens.  The issue has again risen to the forefront, because Donald Trump has claimed that Senator Ted Cruz is not a “natural born Citizen” based on his birth in Canada.  This blog will examine the Constitutional requirements to be President and what is meant by “natural born Citizen.”

Article II, Section 1 states, “[n]o person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”  Since, Sen. Cruz was clearly not a Citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, he has to be a “natural born Citizen” to be eligible to the Office of President.  Unfortunately, “natural born Citizen” is not defined, at all, in the Constitution. To interpret the Constitution, we must look to the British common law at the time the Constitution was adopted and at the actions and words of the First Congress, because so many of the members of that Congress were directly involved in the drafting of the Constitution.

First, in looking at the British common law, the laws in effect in the 1700’s stated that children born outside of the British Empire, but to subjects of the Crown were subjects themselves and even explicitly used the term “natural born” to describe these children. 128 Harv. L. Rev. 161, March 11, 2015.   In fact, as early as 1343, the British Parliament passed a statute stating “there was no manner of doubt that the children of our Lord the King, whether they were born on this side of the sea or beyond the sea, should bear the inheritance of their ancestors.”  In 1677, 1708, and 1731 the British Parliament passed additional statutes that explicitly said children born to fathers (even mothers were included in the 1677 statute) that were natural born subjects of the Crown were natural-born subjects of Britain.  United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 1898.  Although not dispositive of this inquiry, it is certainly informative to note that even in France, around the time of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, it was the general rule and understanding that “children born in a foreign country, of a French father…, were also deemed Frenchmen.”  Thus, the British common law, at the time of the drafting of the U.S. Constitution, clearly embraced the concept that a child born to a citizen of Britain, at least to the father, was a natural born Citizen.

Likewise, the acts of the First Congress fall in line with the British common law.  In 1790, just three years after the drafting of the Constitution, the First Congress established that children born abroad to U.S. citizens were in fact U.S. citizens at birth and stated they “shall be considered as natural born citizens.”  Even more persuasive than just the acts of the First Congress is the fact that by successive acts Congress has routinely provided foreign-born children of U.S. citizens with citizenship at birth.  These statutes have been passed by Congress in 1790, 1795, 1798, 1802, 1804, and 1855.  United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 1898.  The statute in force when Sen. Cruz was born, enacted in 1952, provided for the citizenship at birth of a child born outside of the United States to a parent citizen, so long as that parent had been physically present in the United States for one year prior to the birth of the child.  Act of June 27, 1952, 66 Stat. 235-236; Title III, ch. 1, section 301(a)(7).   It is safe to say, since the drafting of the Constitution, it has been widely understood that children born abroad to a citizen of the United States was also a citizen at birth.

Interestingly, this debate has only become so intense in recent elections.  Senator Barry Goldwater was born in Arizona before it was a state, but he was the Republican Presidential nominee in 1964.  Governor George Romney was born in Mexico to U.S. citizen parents and ran for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1968.  And, in 2008 when Senator John McCain, who was born to U.S. citizen parents in the Panama Canal Zone, was running for President as the Republican nominee, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution stating that any interpretation of the natural born citizenship clause as limited to those born within the United States was “inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the ‘natural born Citizen’ clause of the Constitution of the United States, as evidenced by the First Congress’ own statute defining the term ‘natural born Citizen.’”  128 Harv. L. Rev. 161, March 11, 2015.    S. Res. 511, 110th Cong. (2008).

Now, there are those that argue Sen. Cruz is not a natural born Citizen because “a natural born citizen cannot be someone whose birth entitled him to citizenship because of a statute – in this case a statute that confers citizenship on a person born abroad to an American parent.”  “Ted Cruz is Not Eligible to be President” www.slate.com, Feb. 8, 2016.  Or because “the framers of both the original Constitution and the 14th Amendment seem to have distinguished between constitutionally and legislatively conferred citizenship.  Those who acquire their citizenship by virtue of birth in the United States are, according to the 14th Amendment, constitutionally conferred citizens, which also seems to be the original understanding of “natural born” citizens.”     Ted Cruz Isn’t a ‘Natural Born’ Citizen www.usnews.com, Feb. 19, 2016.  The problem with these arguments is that, as shown above, the British common law and the acts of the First Congress (and subsequent Congress after subsequent Congress) has afforded citizenship, even “natural born” citizenship, on the children of citizens born abroad.  This was discussed in depth over 100 years ago by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark.  The second problem with this argument is that the 14th Amendment was not ratified until July 9, 1868 – well after the drafting of the Constitution.  Considering the British common law and the actions of the First Congress, both sources routinely approved by the United States Supreme Court to be used in interpreting the Constitution, support this position, it is antithetical to use the language found in the 14th Amendment to argue otherwise.

Although it would be quite ironic for Sen. Cruz to be ineligible to run for President based on an originalist approach to the Constitution – considering his love of that theory – it just doesn’t fit here.  As Congress has recognized since the founding of this nation, a foreign-born child of a U.S. citizen is a “natural born citizen” and is eligible to serve as President.

Syrian Refugees: Are we a Christian nation or not?

After the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, France more than half of the governors – 27 states in all — of the United States have said they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their States.  They have made this decision under the guise of safety and protecting American citizens from ISIS terrorists.  Not surprisingly, 26 of these states have Republican governors, including Oklahoma.  What is most disheartening is that, for the most part, these are the same States and the same governors that have fought to have Ten Commandments monuments placed on the grounds of the State Capitol, fought same sex marriage because it is against their Christian beliefs (Alabama), and tried to pass restrictions on Sharia law.  We live in a country where Christian people are upset if a business’ employees says “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” are offended because Starbucks only has a red cup for Christmas, and protest the participation of Muslim U.S. veterans’ in a Veterans’ Day parade, simply because they are Muslim.  We say that we are a Christian nation, yet our actions show something very different.  When faced with the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II, we respond with fear, xenophobia, and isolationism.  We ignore these people in their time of greatest need.

There are approximately 12 million Syrian refugees.  Let that number sink in.  12 million people that have fled their homeland.  New York City has a population of only 8 million.  The population for the entire State of Oklahoma is 3.8 million.  There are more refugees from Syria than people that live in the entire State of Oklahoma and New York City combined.  Of those 12 million people, roughly half are children.  These children are especially at risk.  They are susceptible to malnutrition and disease.  Often, they have to work in dangerous and demeaning jobs to help provide for their family.  They are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.  And, between 2 and 3 million of these Syrian children are unable to even attend school. These are all things that we take for granted for our children here.  Of the more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees that have left Syria, more than 50% are women. It is obvious that the refugees are not predominately military age males.  This is a crisis that affects the young and old, men and women, Muslim and Christian alike.  This is a crisis of biblical proportions.  These people have fled their homes and are running for their lives; running from ISIS and the civil war in their home country.

Unfortunately, here in the United States, we greet them with distrust and fear.  We are willing to accept the Christian refugees, but we are not willing to accept Muslim refugees.  We believe them to be untrustworthy, solely because of their religious beliefs.  We believe them to be terrorists or members of ISIS, even though, that is precisely what they are running from.  This fear, this distrust, is wholly irrational.  There is no evidence that any of these refugees are dangerous.  And, here in Oklahoma, it is especially irrational because, so far, there are only 3 Syrian refugees in the entire state.

In times of great crisis, Christians are given an opportunity to show what our beliefs truly mean, to show the world what it is to be a Christian.  As Christians, we are called to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, and visit the imprisoned.  These Syrian refugees are hungry, thirsty, naked, and homeless.  They are in dire need of our help, as they leave their homeland just on the hope that they will survive.  Unfortunately, our irrational fear of people that are different drives us to ignore their pleas.  Here in Oklahoma, we are more concerned with putting up a Ten Commandments monument, sharia law, who gets to marry whom, protesting Muslim U.S. veterans’ participation in a Veteran’s Day parade, and what color Starbucks cups are for Christmas.  Maybe we shouldn’t #prayforparis or #prayforsyria, maybe, just maybe we should #prayforus, because our actions are not those of a Christian nation or a Christian people.

Separation of Church & State – Kim Davis: Martyr?

On September 3, 2015, Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, was ordered to jail for contempt of court for her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  This has prompted many conservative Christians and Republican presidential candidates to call Ms. Davis a martyr and to compare her to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks.  Her supporters have argued that her First Amendment rights to freely exercise her religion have been violated and that she has been incarcerated for her religious beliefs.  The truth, though, is that she was not incarcerated for her religious beliefs.  The truth is she has blatantly violated the Constitutional rights of the same-sex couples whom she refuses to issue marriage licenses to.   And, the truth is she has violated the First Amendment’s prohibition against an establishment of religion.

Ms. Davis, an Apostolic Christian with a sincere religious objection to same-sex marriage, announced back on June 26, 2015, just hours after the United States Supreme Court held that states are constitutionally required to recognize same-sex marriage that the Rowan County Clerk’s office would no longer issue marriage licenses to any couple.  This was done to ensure that she would not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, even though the Supreme Court held that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to be married, the Governor of Kentucky had explicitly instructed county clerks to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and it was her responsibility under Kentucky law as the Rowan County Clerk to issue marriage licenses to any couple that is legally qualified to be married in Kentucky.  Ms. Davis, in her official capacity as the Rowan County Clerk, was sued by two same-sex couples and two opposite-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses.  On August 12, 2015, Judge David L. Bunning of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction preventing Ms. Davis from applying her “no marriage licenses” policy.  Ms. Davis refused to follow the judge’s order and appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and to the United States Supreme Court.  Her appeal was denied by both.  On September 3, 2015, Ms. Davis further refused a proposal to simply allow her deputies to process same-sex marriage licenses.  Ms. Davis was held in contempt of court and Judge Bunning ordered her to be incarcerated.  Judge Bunning has since ordered her to be released from jail and to not interfere with her deputies issuing marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.

Immediately, her attorneys, several Republican presidential candidates, and other supporters denounced the Federal Court’s decision.  Roger Ganman, an attorney for Ms. Davis said, “Today, for the first time in history, an American citizen has been incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, and she’s been ordered to stay there until she’s willing to change her mind, until she’s willing to change her conscience about what belief is.”  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said, “Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny.”  Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has demanded that “we must end the criminalization of Christianity!”  And, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes compared Judge Bunning to Bull Connor saying, “I truly believe Judge Bunning wanted to intimidate Christians and send a very clear message – that resistance to same-sex marriage will not be tolerated – doing with the gavel what Bull Connor tried to do with dogs and fire hoses.”

But, this rhetoric misses the point.  Upon taking office, Ms. Davis took the following oath of office, “I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of Rowan County Clerk according to law…”  Yet, Ms. Davis, since June 26, 2015, has not only failed to support the United States Constitution, but has openly refused to do so.  Ms. Davis was not “incarcerated for having the belief of conscience that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” she certainly was not incarcerated until she changed her mind regarding her beliefs on same-sex marriage, and there is no evidence that Christianity has been criminalized.  Ms. Davis was incarcerated solely because she disregarded a direct order from Judge Bunning.  She was not incarcerated because of her religious beliefs, but because of her actions, as an elected state official, that violated the constitutional rights of same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky.

Further, Ms. Davis’ First Amendment rights have not even been violated.  The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.  Ms. Davis remains free to believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.  Ms. Davis remains free to exercise her religion as she sees fit.  She is free to attend services at any church of her choosing and no one is asking her to renounce her beliefs.  Simply, she is free to believe that same-sex marriage is wrong and to live her life accordingly.

But, she is not free to impose her Apostolic Christian beliefs, as the elected County Clerk, on the people of Rowan County, Kentucky.  And, by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, she is doing just that.  This is a very clear example of a First Amendment establishment of religion violation.  This prohibition against an establishment of religion is the fundamental principle that allows all Americans to practice their religious beliefs freely and openly without fear of the government.  It is precisely what ensures the separation of church and state.  As Christians, we should be celebrating this decision, not because we celebrate Ms. Davis’ incarceration, but because we celebrate the continued religious liberty of all.

The truth is Ms. Davis is not a martyr.  She is not the apostle Paul or John the Baptist or any number of other true martyrs who have been incarcerated and even put to death for their religious beliefs.  Ms. Davis is free to believe that same-sex marriage is morally wrong and is free to follow her religious beliefs.  She is free to resign her government position and exercise her religious beliefs anyway she sees fit, but she is not free to continue to take her state salary as the elected Rowan County Clerk and to violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples and to even violate the First Amendment’s prohibition on an establishment of religion by forcing her personal beliefs on everyone else.  Again, she has never been asked or forced to renounce her beliefs.  She has merely been asked to do her job, in accordance with the United States Constitution, just as she swore an oath to do.

If at this point you still support Ms. Davis and believe that she has been incarcerated for her religious beliefs and that she should be free to instruct the Rowan County Clerk’s office to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in direct contradiction to the established law of the land as set forth by the Supreme Court and as instructed by the Governor of Kentucky, ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. If Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to mixed race couples because it violated her religious beliefs, would you still support her?
  2. If Ms. Davis were a Muslim and she refused to issue driver’s licenses to women, because of her beliefs, would you still support her?

Much like with the 10 Commandments debate, we, as Christians, need to be careful what we do while we are the majority in the United States.  There may come a time when we truly need the protections of the First Amendment – to ensure the freedom to exercise our religious beliefs as we see fit and the guarantee of the separation of church and state, but this is not that time.  We live in an amazing country where we are free to exercise our religion as we see fit.  We do not fear reprisals from the government, because we are Christians, because we openly attend church, or openly proclaim our belief in Christ, as many of our Christian brothers and sisters have.  We must celebrate the religious protections found in our Constitution and work feverishly to protect them for people of all faiths, to ensure they are here if we need them.

Oklahoma Bans Texting While Driving

Oklahoma Bans Texting While Driving

On May 5, 2015, Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill No. 1965, making Oklahoma the 46th State to prohibit texting while driving.  Specifically, Section 2(A) states, “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle on any street or highway within this state while using a hand-held electronic communication device to manually compose, send or read an electronic text message while the motor vehicle is in motion.”  However, the law does quite a bit more than just prohibit texting while driving:

  • First, “electronic communication device” is not limited to just a cell phone.  It includes any electronic device that permits the user to manually transmit written text.
  • Second, and perhaps most important, “text message” is not limited to just a text message, but is defined to include text-based messages, instant messages, electronic messages, photo, video or electronic mail.

Exceptions To The Law

There are also several exceptions to the ban on texting while driving built into the law.  For example, a driver may use “a device that is physically or electronically integrated into a motor vehicle or a voice-operated global positioning or navigation system that is affixed to a motor vehicle.”  It also makes an exception for using a hands-free device that allows the user to write, send or read a text message without the use of either hand except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function.  And, there are specific exemptions allowing a driver to communicate with an emergency response operator; a hospital, physician’s office or health clinic; a provider of ambulance services; a provider of firefighting services; or a law enforcement agency regarding an imminent emergency situation.

Keep in mind, before this law was passed, a driver could not be pulled over solely for texting while driving under the distracted driving laws.  Now, however, texting while driving is a primary offense and a driver can be pulled over just for texting while driving.

The bottom line is that even though this is a law “relating to texting while driving,” it is much broader.  A driver in Oklahoma can now be pulled over and given a ticket of up to $100.00 for sending, receiving, or reading a text message, e-mail, picture, or even posting on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms.  Remember, this ban only applies while the motor vehicle is in motion.  So, if you just have to text someone or post what song is on the radio right now, do it quickly while you are sitting at a traffic light and you will not risk getting a $100.00 ticket to do so!

Devil Be Gone: Oklahoma and the Ten Commandments Monument

Ten Commandments Monument – Court Ruling

On June 30, 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on an Oklahoma citizen’s challenge to the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol.  As most are aware, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the monument must be removed.  Based upon the Oklahoma Constitution, this was the correct decision.

Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution states: “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”  This section of the Oklahoma Constitution clearly bans the State Government from using any public money or property for the benefit or support of any religious group.  This ban remains, even if the use of public money or property only indirectly benefits any religious group.  Thus, the only question is whether the placement of the Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol, in any way, benefits or supports religion.  Obviously, the Ten Commandments are a central part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.  And, in this State, the reason so many people are upset with this decision is because of the importance of the Ten Commandments to Christianity.  That is precisely why, pursuant to the Oklahoma Constitution, the Ten Commandments monument had to be removed.  To have the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol, public property, clearly provided an indirect benefit to Christianity.  This is what is forbidden by the Oklahoma Constitution.

Since this decision, there have been calls by members of the Oklahoma legislature to repeal this section of the Oklahoma Constitution or to impeach the Supreme Court justices that voted for this ruling.  Both of those would be folly.

Removing the Ten Commandments Monument

First, repealing this section of the Oklahoma Constitution for the sole purpose of putting the Ten Commandments monument back at the State Capitol would be pointless.  More likely than not, this Ten Commandments monument also violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The First Amendment, in relevant part, states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”  The First Amendment applies to the States through the Fourteenth Amendment.    In Van Orden v. Perry, the United States Supreme Court ruled on a challenge to a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.  This Ten Commandments monument was nearly identical to the one that was on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol and the Supreme Court found that it was permissible for Texas to have it.  Unfortunately, there are significant factual differences between the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument and the Texas Ten Commandments monument.  For example, the Texas Ten Commandments monument was a gift from the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1961 and had been in place for 42 years before the lawsuit was filed challenging its placement.  Further, it was part of a display of seventeen monuments, all located on grounds registered as a historical landmark, and it was carefully located between the Supreme Court building and the Capitol building housing the legislative and executive branches of government.  The Supreme Court specifically mentioned the importance of these facts in determining that the Texas Ten Commandments monument was permissible.  By contrast, the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument has no history.  It was placed on the grounds of the State Capitol in 2012.  It was not donated to the State by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, or some other secular organization.  It was paid for by the family of State Rep. Mike Ritze, who also authored the bill to allow for the Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the grounds of the State Capitol.  Further, this monument was not placed among many other historical monuments, but was placed in an isolated location far from the main entrance to the Capitol.  Because the Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument is a new monument with no history, it is likely the Supreme Court would find it is in violation of the First Amendment.

Second, the United States Constitution was put in place not to protect the majority.  The Constitution is there to protect the rights of the minority.  We, as Christians, need to be careful what we do while we are the majority.  If recent studies are to be believed, there may come a day when we are no longer the majority.  Whether that new majority would be of a different religion or no religion at all, we would be the ones in need of the protections of the Constitution.  Protections to guarantee that a new majority religion cannot become state sponsored or supported by public funds or property and protections to guarantee that we may still freely practice our religion would become even more important.  Removing those protections now, because people are upset that a new monument to the Ten Commandments cannot be placed on the grounds of the State Capitol, would be an unwise and short sighted thing to do.

Finally, our country was founded on the separation of powers and the respect for the rule of law.  To threaten to impeach the Supreme Court justices because we disagree with them is absurd.  Based upon the Oklahoma Constitution, these Supreme Court justices were simply doing their jobs.  If we disagree with their legal reasoning, it is our duty to engage them in honest debate, not to threaten them and shout them down so we no longer have to listen to their opinions.  The world, our country, and our state is filled with people who disagree with us.  We must be able to engage in civilized disagreement and be able to discuss different positions with people that do not believe as we do, for this is how we grow as an individual and as a society.