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American Atheists sue the state Capitol Preservation Commission over placement of 10 Commandments on state property

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report (via Atheists.org)
The Oklahoma-issued "ATHE1ST" license plate on the cover of current issue of "American Atheist"magazine belongs to plaintiff Aimee Breeze.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Another week, another issue involving a religious monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

While the Satanic Temple takes a break, and people suggest on cable TV that the Satanists “should be shot right next” to their proposed monument of goat-headed demon Baphomet, faithful Oklahoma Christians look on in horror as another group seeks to put the brakes on the unconstitutional efforts by Christian supremacists to put their beliefs above all others in the Sooner State. Their latest scheme is to construct a chapel in the crumbling confines of the Capitol.

 Red Dirt Report learned today that American Atheists, based in New Jersey, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission over the placement of the Ten Commandments monument placed on the grounds of the State Capitol in 2012.

American Atheists, et.al is following the lead of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which is also suing over the placement of the monument, a granite monolith which was funded by pious Christian Republican State Rep. Mike Ritze and his God-fearing family.

In addition to American Atheists, Inc., the plaintiffs include individuals Wagoner County’s William Poire and Oklahoma City’s Aimee Breeze, both are active in Oklahoma’s burgeoning atheist community, which includes Oklahoma Atheists and FreeOk.

The claim by the plaintiffs is that the state’s placement of a “Hollywood movie director’s rendition of one of many versions (of the Ten Commandments) from the Bible” is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Supremacy Clause.

One of the issues noted in the suit, which can be read in its entirety here, is the issue of “irreparable harm,” and the effect the unconstitutional placement of the granite Decalogue has on atheist taxpayers in Oklahoma.

Notes the lawsuit: “Due to the Defendants’ unlawful discrimination and disparate treatment of Plaintiffs, the Plaintiffs have suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm to their First Amendment constitutional rights as citizens who reside in the State of Oklahoma, pay taxes in the State of Oklahoma, and utilize the machinery of State Government and the State Capitol building. Plaintiffs’ injuries are continuing and repeated each day the Display is permitted to remain in violation of the United States Constitution. “The loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.” Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976); see also, e.g., Pacific Frontier v. Pleasant Grove City, 414 F.3d 1221, 1235-36 (10th Cir. 2005) (noting presumption of irreparable harm where First Amendment rights are implicated). “A plaintiff suffers irreparable injury when the court would be unable to grant an effective monetary remedy after a full trial because such damages would be inadequate or difficult to ascertain.” Dominion Video Satellite, Inc. v. EchoStar Satellite Corp., 269 F.3d 1149, 1156 (10th Cir. 2001). Furthermore, “[w]hen an alleged constitutional right is involved, most courts hold that no further showing of irreparable injury is necessary.” Kikumura v. Hurley, 242 F.3d 950, 963 (10th Cir. 2001).”

Representing the plaintiffs include Edwin F. Kagin of Union, Ky., Eric O. Husby of Tampa, Fla., and Norman, Okla. attorney Michael Salem.

Salem, who takes on cases involving constitutional and First Amendment issues said all inquiries were to be directed to Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists. However, he did say that regardless of whether someone is an atheist or a Christian or a Muslim or whatever … when it comes to the First Amendment and questions of constitutionality, they all have equal merit.

And while Silverman was unavailable, Red Dirt Report did speak to the American Atheists spokesman Dave Muscato who said that the lawsuit is “pretty straightforward” and that having the Ten Commandments on state property is a “violation of the separation of religion and government.”

When we asked Muscato what his thoughts were on all the attention his group, the Satanic Temple, the Hindus and others have been getting regarding the placement of monuments – or the removal of monuments – at the Oklahoma State Capitol, Muscato said that he thinks “people are starting to pay attention to these kinds of things.”

Added Muscato: “And while the Satanists are a rare thing, we are against the placement of a Satanic monument as well, just as much as we are against the placement of a Judeo-Christian monument. It’s unconstitutional."

 

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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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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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