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November 16, 2012

Monument in place at capital

OKLAHOMA CITY — A 6-foot tall granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments was installed Thursday on the state capital grounds, drawing a harsh reaction from opponents and a legal scholar who question whether the display is constitutional.

The Republican-controlled legislature authorized the privately funded monument in 2009, and former Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed the bill into law.

The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Ritze, and his family paid about $10,000 for the monument’s construction.

“I think it’s a beautiful work of art, and it’s identical to ones in Texas, Utah and 200 other monuments ...” said Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.

A private contractor put the monument in place Thursday morning on the north side of the building, near an entrance that has been closed for years.

Three years ago, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a similar Ten Commandments monument erected on the Haskell County Courthouse lawn in Stigler was unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized a similar monument at the Texas capital.

But Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma, said the Supreme Court “grandfathered” in the Texas monument because it had been in place for decades and was surrounded by other monuments that helped secularize its religious message.

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