Skip to content Skip to footer

Republican’s Bill Would Establish Ten Commandments Monument at Oklahoma Capitol

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that a previous Ten Commandments monument was unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma State Capitol is pictured in Oklahoma City.

A GOP-sponsored bill in the Oklahoma state legislature would allocate space at the state capitol for building a monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments, despite the state Supreme Court ruling seven years ago that a similar monument was unconstitutional.

Senate Bill 1858, sponsored by state Sen. David Bullard (R), would require prominent display of such a monument, which espouses principles contained in Jewish and Christian scripture, both inside and outside of the capitol building. The bill also stipulates that the monument cannot be moved after it is erected without a three-quarters vote in the state legislature and the governor’s approval.

Designs for the monument would have to be finalized within one year of passage of the bill. Any person who damages the monument would be charged with a felony crime. The bill also authorizes the state attorney general “to prepare and present a legal defense of the display” in the event that the monument’s constitutionality is questioned.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which, through case law over the years also applies to the states, forbids the establishment or endorsement of a state or national religion. In 2015, the state Supreme Court found that a different Ten Commandments display at the capitol was in violation of that standard, and soon after a judge ordered its removal.

Before that display’s removal, several groups, such as the Satanic Temple, sought to showcase the state’s hypocrisy in endorsing Christian imagery by proposing their own monuments, including one of Satan depicted as a goat-headed deity called Baphomet. After the state Supreme Court ruling on the Ten Commandments, plans to assemble that statue were abandoned.

Although Bullard’s bill stipulates that only donated funds can be used to build the proposed monument (likely to avoid complaints that state taxpayer dollars were used to support it), the bill also orders state lawmakers to use their work hours to discuss the design of the monument, amounting to at least some government expenditures.

Bullard believes that his bill and a Ten Commandments monument can stand up to constitutional scrutiny due to a 2022 Supreme Court case in which the conservative majority ruled in favor of allowing a public school football coach to lead prayers with his players before games. But critics of the proposal say that this reasoning likely won’t hold up in court.

“It has been pretty well established that public grounds and public money should not be used for promotion of a single religious viewpoint,” said Veronica Laizure, who serves as the board president of the American Civil Liberties Union-Oklahoma as well as the deputy director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). “This is clearly doing that.”

Tired of reading the same old news from the same old sources?

So are we! That’s why we’re on a mission to shake things up and bring you the stories and perspectives that often go untold in mainstream media. But being a radically, unapologetically independent news site isn’t easy (or cheap), and we rely on reader support to keep the lights on.

If you like what you’re reading, please consider making a tax-deductible donation today. We’re not asking for a handout, we’re asking for an investment: Invest in a nonprofit news site that’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, not afraid to stand up for what’s right, and not afraid to tell it like it is.