Monday, December 16, 2013

IN 2009 Oklahoma’s legislature passed a bill ordering that a monumental version of the Ten Commandments—which it cited as “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the state of Oklahoma”—should be placed in the grounds of its state capitol building. The bill specified that Oklahoma would not pay for the monument; Mike Ritze, the bill’s sponsor, and his family donated it to the state. It was erected on the capitol’s north side in November 2012, and there it still stands.

The text is (not surprisingly) identical to that on a Ten Commandments monument in the grounds of the Texas capitol in Austin, which, Mr Ritze’s bill slyly notes, the “Supreme Court ruled constitutional” in 2005. In that case, Van Orden v Perry, the court held that the Ten Commandments “have an undeniable historical meaning” as well as a religious one. It also found that a message does not violate the First Amendment’s prohibition of “an establishment of religion” simply because it has some religious content....

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