June 2009 Editorial Winner

The 10 again
David Gerard - Muskogee Phoenix June 15, 2009

The Ten Commandments monument in Stigler on the Haskell County Courthouse lawn has received a lot of media coverage and comment over the past three years.

We’ve commented several times, upholding our belief that the monument was religious in nature and should not be displayed. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver rendered that decision this past week when asked to review a lower court decision favorable to the monument. The appellate court may not have the final say. Another appeal may follow.

However, the Denver court made the correct call. Backers of the Haskell County monument said openly that the display was religiously motivated. And even though most people in Haskell County may favor the display, this country was founded on the principle that we protect the rights of all citizens, not just the majority. That’s especially true when it comes to religion.

What’s very distressing is that Oklahoma lawmakers don’t get this. They approved and the governor seconded the placing of a similar monument at the state Capitol, which will certainly be challenged in court.

Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who pushed for the Capitol Commandments, has said he carefully crafted the bill so that it stressed the Decalogue’s historical influence, rather than its religious importance.

Perhaps, Ritze is concerned about history, but we tend to think that like those in Haskell County, he is motivated by his religious beliefs. In effect, he’s circumvented the law to get what he wanted.

But again, the greatest mistake by the Ten Commandments supporters is thinking that their rights are infringed upon because our government, and Constitution, distances itself from supporting any religion, even the majority religion, over any other.

But anyone has the right to put a Ten Commandments monument in his or her yard and on any private property that will accommodate the stone. But when one is erected in a public spot, it infringes on the religious rights of others.