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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

reddirtreporter@gmail.com

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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