An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds must be removed because it violates the state’s constitutional ban on using public property to benefit religion.
The court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are “obviously religions in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths.”
The 7-2 ruling overturns a decision by a district court judge who determined the monument could stay. It prompted calls from several GOP lawmakers for impeachment of the justices who said it must be removed.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt argued that the monument was historical, not religious, in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state’s constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.
"Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong," Pruitt said in a statement. "The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law."
Pruitt asked for a rehearing and that the monument stays until the court considers his request. Pruitt also asked for a provision in the Oklahoma Constitution that prohibits the use of public funds for religions purposed may need to be repealed.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which represented the plaintiffs in the case, said Pruitt's suggestion and the calls for impeachment amounted to sour grapes.
"I think the idea that you go about amending the constitution every time you lose a court battle is a dangerous precedent for anyone to engage in, but in particular for the state's highest attorney to do so," Kiesel said. "And the calls for impeachment represent a fundamental misunderstanding of how an independent judiciary functions within our system of democratic government."
Since the original monument was erected in 2012, other groups have asked to put up their own monuments on Capitol grounds. Among the groups asked to put up a monument include a Hindu leader and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow whose family paid about $10,000 for the monument's construction, pushed the bill authorizing the monument. He said he hoped the attorney general would appeal the ruling.
The original monument was smashed into pieces in October, when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A 29-year-old man who was arrested the next day was admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed.
A new monument was built and put up in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report