OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday said the Ten Commandments monument will stay at the Capitol despite a court ruling that said it violated the state Constitution and must be removed.
Fallin said Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to reconsider its 7-2 decision, which was handed down last week after a challenge by the ACLU of Oklahoma on behalf of three plaintiffs.
In addition, lawmakers have filed legislation to let people vote on whether to remove a portion of the state Constitution cited in the ruling. Article II, Section 5 of the constitution reads:
“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,” according to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The court said the monument was obviously religious in nature and an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths. The constitution bans the state from using public money or property for the benefit of any religious purpose, according to the opinion.
The monument was privately funded by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.
“Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions,” Fallin said. “However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government.”
In her decision to let the monument stay, Fallin cited the petition for rehearing and legislation seeking to let people vote on amending the constitution.
“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.”
Alex Weintz, a Fallin spokesman, said she is not ignoring the ruling, but giving the other branches of government a chance to weigh in on the issue.
He was asked if Fallin would refuse a court order to remove the monument. Weintz said he couldn’t answer that question at this time because an appeal is pending and no district court order has been issued to remove the monument. He said if the state lost its appeal, and a district court ordered the monument be removed, the governor’s office would address the question at that time.
Fallin does not get to enforce the laws of the “hypothetical future,” said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director. She is charged with enforcing the law as it exists today, he said.
If the court retains its position after the motion for rehearing, the matter goes back to Oklahoma County District Court for proceedings consistent with the original order from the court that the monument be removed, Kiesel said.
“The Supreme Court did not give any leeway in their opinion. The bipartisan, seven-member majority did not say remove the monument except if you look into your crystal ball and think the law might allow it at some point in the future and go ahead and keep it,” Kiesel said. “The court said remove the monument.”