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Ritze responds to questions about newly-installed Ten Commandments monument

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
The Ten Commandments monument that was installed last week at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
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By Andrew W. Griffin

Red Dirt Report, editor

Posted: November 19, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY – In the days since a six-foot-tall granite monument featuring the Ten Commandments was installed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol, the legislator behind its installation – Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow – has taken the subsequent praise and criticism in stride.

The praise, unsurprisingly, is coming from his constituents in largely conservative District 80, while critics of the Ten Commandments monuments are largely “out-of-state atheists.”

As we reported over the weekend, Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, has said his organization is “investigating all the facts” and that it is “premature to say if we’re going to file a lawsuit.”

Concerns about the separation of church and state have been bandied about, but Ritze told this reporter that they have already received support from the Liberty Legal Foundation who have told him that if there are any legal challenges to the presence of the Ten Commandments monument that they will offer legal assistance pro bono.

And then there was the unexpected criticism from many corners, particularly online, due to the fact that two words – “Sabbath” and “maidservant” appeared etched in the stone as “Sabbeth” and “maidseruant.” Those typos were quickly repaired.

That, Ritze told Red Dirt Report, was due to the Tulsa monument company’s engraving machine and scanner not being able to “pick up Old English.”

“Using a simple method, they repaired it,” Ritze said. “Red granite with epoxy.”

It was in 2009 when Ritze introduced House Bill 1330 (the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act) and it received overwhelming support in the House and Senate. It was so that a monument displaying the Mosaic law of the ancient Ten Commandments could displayed on the grounds of the Capitol.

Ritze said he was originally inspired to promote the Ten Commandments after reading about Judge E.J. Ruegemer, a Minnesota judge who, in the 1940’s, by sentencing a juvenile to be sentenced to learn the Ten Commandments. Ruegemer would later promote the idea of spreading the message of the Ten Commandments via granite replicas across the United States. With help from the Fraternal Order of Eagles, this was achieved in many places, from Texas to Utah and many government buildings and on government land.

But when Ritze found out that one meant for Oklahoma had been seemingly lost over the years, and that the Eagles organization was out of money, Ritze put up his own money to have the monument and base built and installed. He said he didn’t even see the finalized monument until the day it was installed.

The monument placed on the north side of the Oklahoma State Capitol late last week is nearly identical to the one at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The case in Texas that followed after its installation – Van Orden v. Perry – would go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and they ruled in 2005, 5-4, that the Ten Commandments display was indeed constitutional.

Upon closer inspection, at the top of the monument are images of the ancient version of the tablets from Mt. Sinai. And in between them is an image of the “Eye of Providence” – the “all-seeing eye,” which is linked to the “all-seeing eye of Horus,” the ancient Egyptian deity.

Ritze, though, says that the image is simply “the Eye of Providence.”

“It’s a symbol of the eye of God that we’ve used since before the Founding,” Ritze said. “It’s on the Great Seal of the U.S., the dollar bill …”

Of course Ritze’s family has been very supportive in the placement of the Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol. In fact, as long as it is there, people will see, at the base of the monument, the message: “Presented to the People of Oklahoma by Dr. Mike and Connie Ritze and children Amity, Heidi and Jamey.”

“I didn’t want to encumber the state to any cost at all,” Ritze said, when asked why he offered to pay for the creation and placement of the monument – which cost approximately $20,000, when all was said and done.

Saying he is a huge fan of history, Ritze comfortably defends the legality of the Ten Commandments display, saying it is “well-documented that it’s part of our heritage and history.” He then notes the Christian crosses on the Oklahoma flag, the fact that legislative sessions are opened with a  prayer and that the Ten Commandments appear at the U.S. Supreme Court as well.

Is he concerned about the separation of church and state, as noted by everyone from Thomas Jefferson to John F. Kennedy?

Responded Ritze: “Where do they get that? It’s not in the Constitution. I don’t know if they make that up. I don’t know where they get that. The First Amendment is very clear, with the statement, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.’”

Copyright 2012 Red Dirt Report

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Andrew W. Griffin

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

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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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