Personal Liberty Poll
In 2009 the Oklahoma legislature approved a measure that allowed for a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the State’s Capitol grounds. The monument, which went up last year, has been widely criticized by legal experts who question whether placing the Judeo-Christian monument so close to the legislative compound violates the Constitutional protections against government establishment of religion. But supporters of the monument are likely less worried about legal challenges by civil liberties groups than they are about the other organizations who now also claim the right to erect religious monuments on the public grounds.
The existing Ten Commandments monument was donated to the Capitol Preservation Commission in 2009 by Oklahoma Republican Representative Mike Ritze, who championed the monument and secured $10,000 in donations for its construction.
When the religious monument went up, with the stipulation that its construction was privately funded, other groups took note. The New York City based Satanic Temple has now announced that it is raising donations for a monument of its own to be displayed in the same area as the Oklahoma Ten Commandments statue.
“As an ‘homage’ to Satan, the purpose of the monument is to complement and contrast the Ten Commandments monument that already resides on the North side of the building,” the organization says on a website raising funds for the proposed new monument.
The proposal presents a tough question for supporters of the existing religious monument. The American Civil Liberties Union has already sued for the removal of the Ten Commandments statue, noting that, “the monument stands alone, with no other monuments or memorials in the immediate vicinity.” ACLU says this is indicative of an unConstitutional and “self-evidently exclusive” religious message “that supports and endorses the faiths and creeds of some churches and sects.”
The Satanists say that their monument would get the ACLU to leave the Ten Commandment supporters alone.
“By accepting our offer, the good people of Oklahoma City will have the opportunity to show that they espouse the basic freedoms spelled out in the Constitution. We imagine that the ACLU will also embrace such a response,” they write. “Allowing us to donate a monument would show that the Oklahoma City Council does not discriminate, and both the religious and non-religious should be happy with such an outcome. Our mission is to bring people together by finding common sentiments that create solutions that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.”
The Satanists continue, “We are keenly attuned to the need for a public-friendly design and plan is to make our monument an object of play for young children.”
ACLU’s Oklahoma legal director Brady Henderson told The Associated Press that if the State government was willing to accept one religious expression on public property, it must also accept others.
“We would prefer to see Oklahoma’s government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are,” Henderson said. “But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple’s proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint.”
Days after the Satanists’ proposal, the Universal Society of Hinduism also announced plans to request room at the Oklahoma Capitol for a statue. That group wants to memorialize the Hindu god Hanuman, the monkey king.
“If the Oklahoma state capitol was open to different monuments, we would love to have a statue of Lord Hanuman,” Rajan Zed, the organization’s president, said in a press release.