Okla. Braces for Challenge to Ten Commandments Law

June 9, 2009

Author: Sean Murphy

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Wire Service: AP


Backers of a new law authorizing a privately funded Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of Oklahoma's Capitol didn't get good news this week.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a similar display at the Haskell County Courthouse in Stigler was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, prompting both sides to wonder if legal wrangling over the state law is next.

Chuck Thornton, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, the group that challenged the Haskell County display, said the group has concerns with the Oklahoma law but stopped short of saying a legal challenge was inevitable.

"Although I'm not going to commit to any course of action today, we at the ACLU are looking at the developments at the state Capitol concerning that monument," Thornton said.

The state bill, approved overwhelmingly last month by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry, authorizes the placement of a privately funded a 3-by-6-foot Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol grounds.

It also authorizes the attorney general or the Liberty Legal Institute, a Texas-based legal advocacy group, to defend the monument if it's challenged in court.

"I think everybody expects it to be challenged or they wouldn't have written a provision for defense in the bill," Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Tuesday.