OKLAHOMA CITY – A Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds is a religious symbol and must be removed because it violates the state's constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a religion, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.
Oklahoma's highest court said the Ten Commandments chiseled into the 6-foot-tall granite monument, which was privately funded by a Republican legislator, are "obviously religious 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.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical 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 said his office would ask the court for a rehearing and request that the monument be allowed to stay until the court considers his request.
Since the original monument was erected in 2012, several other groups have asked to put up their own monuments on the Capitol grounds. Among them is a group that wants to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard.
A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group, and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also have made requests.
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 Tuesday 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 again in January.
Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy