Higher power: Okla. lawmakers take on courts over Ten Commandments monument

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Oklahoma lawmakers say they answer to a higher authority than the state Supreme Court when it comes to the Ten Commandments monument the justices ordered must be removed from the State House grounds.

The high court ruled last month that the monument violates the state Constitution, siding with the American Civil Liberties Union and a group of citizens. Now, lawmakers including Republican Rep. John Paul Jordan are fighting back with a resolution that would rewrite part of the Oklahoma Constitution to allow for the placement of the statue. If the measure passes during next year's legislative session, the fate of the monument will be left with Oklahoma voters.

“I see this as a battle that belongs to the great people of Oklahoma," Jordan said. "It's up to them to determine what they want.”

“I see this as a battle that belongs to the great people of Oklahoma."

— Oklahoma Rep. John Paul Jordan

The most recent polling on the issue indicates that almost 80 percent of likely Oklahoma voters surveyed said they strongly or somewhat approve of the monument. That poll was taken in 2010.

Opponents of the statue claim that it strikes against religious liberty, and the cries for a change in the state constitution are simply political grandstanding.

“The calls we’ve seen right now are entirely political hyperbole,” said Brady Henderson, legal director of the Oklahoma ACLU. “The fact that state lawmakers want to change our state’s founding document over one issue is obviously political theater at its finest.”

Gov. Mary Fallin was one of those to publicly join the fight to amend the state constitution.

“I’m hoping that the Legislature will address this,” Fallin told Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity. “They’ve said they would.”

Henderson said that ratcheting up religious rhetoric plays well in legislators’ home districts, and that the lawmakers will likely put all options on the table to make sure the monument stay on capitol grounds. The resolution, he acknowledges, is likely to pass, given the current makeup of the Legislature. Once through the lawmakers, it is equally likely to be approved by citizens in a state in which a 2014 Gallup poll found more than 77 of the population identifies as either “moderately religious” or “very religious.”

Henderson believes the case could ultimately be destined for the federal courts, based on the U.S. Constitution.

“Not a slam dunk, but we’re confident that we can win on the federal court level,” he said.

A similar case that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 centered on a Ten Commandments monument at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. The high court’s swing vote, Justice Anthony Kennedy, sided with Texas in the matter, as did liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, who said the monument conveyed a “broader moral and historical message.” The monument was allowed to stay.