Ten Commandments monument removed from Oklahoma capitol grounds amid growing controversy that it violated separation of church and state principles. The display will be transported to a conservative think tank for storage.
The state’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, in June, that the monument was unconstitutional on the basis of state prohibition on the use of public space for the purpose to promote or support the ideas of any particular sect, church, denomination or religion at the expense of other groups and secular values.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol had tightened security around the display earlier on Monday in order to prevent visitors and potential protesters from getting close to it.
“We wanted it to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doing it at night gave us the best opportunity to do that,” said John Estus from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
Estus had previously expressed concern about the possibility of a protest or demonstration around the monument over the state’s decision to have it removed from public grounds. This was a major reason which contributed to the authorities’ decision to have it taken away at night time.
The monument was a replacement for another display of the Ten Commandments, which was destroyed when a 29-year-old intentionally drove his car into it last year. Even though the man was immediately arrested, mental instability was claimed and thus charged never filled. The new display was unveiled at the beginning of the year, in January.
However, the decision to allow it on Capitol grounds was promptly met with heavy criticism and much controversy. Other groups have also demanded that their belief systems be represented, including a satanic church that requested a statue of Baphomet, in the form of a goat-headed demon with horns, wings and a long beard.
A Hindu leader and several animal rights groups have also requested ideas for their own monuments, while a satirical church mockingly demanded the representation of the flying spaghetti monster. Secular activists have firmly opposed the promotion of any religious values whatsoever through monuments or statues placed in the public sphere.
In the end, their arguments have prevailed, although, at the opposite side of the spectrum, conservative and right-wing legislators have sharply criticized the decision. Former Republican member of the House of Representatives Mike Reynolds, who previously voted to authorize the monument, has said that this would also be a good time “to get rid of some of the Supreme Court justices, too.”
Some Republican lawmakers have even promised a public referendum that could potentially remove the state constitutional article which prevents the use of public money or property for religious purposes.
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