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Friday round-up ... "Church and state" issues pop up this week

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Rep. Mike Ritze's "Ten Commandments" dream becomes reality (and legal liability) at Oklahoma State Capitol.
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By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: November 16, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – Incredibly, there were not one but two examples of state-sanctioned folks – a legislator and a judge - ignoring the separation of church and state.

The one that has many in the state (and online) talking and chuckling – a very Homer-esque “D’oh!” moment – was when a 2,000-lb. granite block depicting the 10 Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol this week with misspellings.

Yes, this will likely be fodder for late-night comics and Zoo Morning Crew deejays and The Lost Ogle, as it should be.

This is because the 10 Commandments should not be there, despite the fact that U.S. Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow) is the legislator behind the granite monolith being placed there – and he and the monument-maker didn’t bother to conduct a “spell check” for words like “Sabbeth” and “maidseruant,” instead of the properly-spelled “Sabbath” and “maidservant.” As one commenter wrote: “Epic fail.”

Ritze not only introduced HB 1330 in 2009 (it would be overwhelmingly approved – 83-2 in the House, 38-8 in the Senate), he and his family put up the approximately $20,000 for both the monument and the base and other work connected to the monument.

Yet, the monument is not on private property - it's public property. This sort of stuff has run into challenges before (Judge Moore in Alabama, for instance ...). We expect lawsuits, as does Ritze, who promises no tax dollars would be used to defend any legal challenges. Ritze says the Liberty Legal Foundation will cover all costs. At least that's what he says ...

This 10 Commandments placement is simply another example of the Religious Right sticking their pious thumbs in the eyes of those who disagree with their interpretation of the Bible. A very un-Christlike approach, in our opinion. And as The Oklahoman reported, Ritze said the “monument re-emphasizes the history and heritage of America’s legal system. American laws came from English law, which is rooted in Mosaic law; the history of some of America’s law can be traced to the 10 Commandments.”

Fortunately, the ACLU of Oklahoma is keeping an eye on things, with State Director Ryan Kiesel telling The Oklahoman that “It’s disingenuous for supporters of placing this monument out there to say that this is purely historical in nature. For them to discount the religious and spiritual underpinnings of the 10 Commandments would be offensive to the many Oklahomans that include the 10 Commandments in their faith.”

Meanwhile, Muskogee County District Judge Mike Norman seems to think that young men found guilty of manslaughter should be required to go to church each Sunday for the next 10 years, rather than serving time for said crime. In this case. 17-year-old Tyler Alred got drunk, went driving and crashed his truck into a tree, killing his passenger, 16-year-old John Luke Dum.

Judge Norman, according to the Tulsa World, has “required church attendance with other defendants in the past.”

But it also raises other questions, as is noted when the World asked OU law professor Randall Coyne about the church-attendance requirement, doled out as “punishment.”

“It raise legal issues because of (the separation of) church and state,” Coyne told the World.

Indeed it does. But, boy howdy, this is Oklahoma, y'all. 

Of course nothing will come of it, unless Ryan Kiesel and the ACLU folks decide to do something. Regardless, sentencing someone to church is quite peculiar.

Copyright 2012 Red Dirt Report

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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