The Associated Press reports that an Oklahoma state court, in Prescott v. Capitol Preservation Commission, (OK Cnty Dist. Ct., Sept. 19, 2014), has ruled that a six-foot tall Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol did not violate the Establishment Clause because of its historical value. The monument is part of a 100-acre area on state grounds that has 51 other monuments. Cases involving challenges to such monuments have been in the news of late. We previously reported on another decision, in Felix v. City of Bloomfield, (D. NM Aug. 7, 2014), where a New Mexico federal court found that a five-foot tall granite Ten Commandments monument outside city hall violated the Establishment Clause “[i]n view of the circumstances surrounding the context, history, and purpose of the Ten Commandments monument.”
About a month after the Oklahoma state court ruling, Michael Tate Reed was arrested for smashing his car into and destroying the Ten Commandments monument. When interviewed by federal agents, Mr. Reed “told them he was directed by Satan to urinate on and destroy the monument at the Capitol.” (AP reports) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin condemned the act:
“This monument was built to memorialize the historical significance of the Ten Commandments in guiding our own laws and lives. It is absolutely appalling that someone would vandalize anything at the Oklahoma State Capitol – the People’s Building – much less a monument of such significance.”
This comes after a Satanist group raising more than $28,000 to construct a seven-foot statue of Baphomet – complete with a goat head, angel wings, and beard, and surrounded by two small children – that it seeks to place on the same state grounds where the Ten Commandments monument previously existed (photograph available here). A Satanic Temple spokesman has said the statue is meant to “celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law.” Reportedly, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission has yet to consider the Satanist statue proposal because of a moratorium on any new monuments.
A separate federal lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument remains pending. Last spring, a federal court in Oklahoma denied the State’s motion to dismiss the case. The Atheist group alleges the monument violates the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. Click here to read our prior post on the case – American Atheists, Inc. v. Thompson, No. CIV-14-42-C (W.D. OK 2014). It is not clear how, if at all, the destruction of the monument will affect the federal case.