A state representative has filed a resolution in response to an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling removing a Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds, saying other state artwork and projects incorporating religious themes are endangered.
Rep. J.P. Jordan, R-Yukon, said artwork throughout the State Capitol has religious imagery and could face similar legal challenges if steps are not taken to resolve the issue.
Jordan’s bill, House Joint Resolution 1036, calls for a public vote to repeal the section of the Oklahoma Constitution upon which the Supreme Court ruling was based. That section bans use of state money or property for religious purposes. Thirteen other House members joined Jordan in authoring the bill, and Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, is sponsoring the resolution in the Senate.
Jordan said the court ruling jeopardizes Capitol artworks such as an 87-year-old panel depicting a World War I soldier protected by an angel and a Capitol rotunda painting by Charles Banks Wilson that features Spanish missionaries carrying a cross.
“They (the state Supreme Court) had a very strict interpretation of the provision in our state constitution. After reading the ruling, I can see us having other lawsuits being filed to remove other artwork we have in the Capitol,” Jordan said in an interview.
Jordan said the ruling also could call into question money appropriated earlier this year for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. The museum will likely feature tribal religious observances, he said.
Gov. Mary Fallin has called for the Ten Commandments monument to remain on the grounds pending legal challenges to the court decision. Oklahoma State Attorney General Scott Pruitt has asked the court to rehear the case.
The monument was erected in 2012, paid for with private funds from a state representative.
Article II, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution states: “No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”