The battle over a Ten Commandments display on Oklahoma's capitol grounds continues, with Republican Gov. Mary Fallin issuing a statement on Tuesday defending the monument and decrying a court decision mandating its removal as "deeply disturbing."
"Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument was impermissible," she said. "Their decision was deeply disturbing to many in our legislature, many in the general public, and to me."
As TheBlaze previously reported, the court overturned previous decisions in a 7-2 ruling, saying that the Ten Commandments display exclusively promotes the Jewish and Christian faiths and is “obviously religious in nature.”
But rather than a religious symbol that serves as a taxpayer-funded endorsement of the Judeo-Christian faith, Fallin said that the moment was constructed and maintained with private dollars to "recognize and honor the historical significance of the Commandments in our state’s and nation’s systems of laws."
A Ten Commandments monument erected outside the Oklahoma state Capitol is shown on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (Credit: Sean Murphy/AP)
Fallin said that she respects the rule of law, but that the government operates through a system of equal branches. With her support, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt is calling for the case to be reheard and, in the meantime, the legislature will explore examining the state's Constitution to see if changes can be made to permit the Ten Commandments display.
"During this process, which will involve both legal appeals and potential legislative and constitutional changes, the Ten Commandments monument will remain on the Capitol grounds," Fallin said.
The lawsuit against the Ten Commandments display was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, with a representative for the Oklahoma branch of the civil rights group telling the Huffington Post that Fallin would create "chaos" if she defied the court on the matter.
"She hasn't violated her oath yet, but she has made a statement that she's willing to do so," Brady Henderson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the outlet. "The highest elected official in the state is essentially saying, 'I am willing to break the law.' My hope is very much that this is political grandstanding."
He said that the governor would need to issue an executive order for the monument to be able to stay on the capitol grounds — an act that has not yet been undertaken.
Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze, who sponsored the monument, told TheBlaze in a recent interview that he, too, will continue fighting for its presence on capitol grounds.
Ritze, who is also a doctor, said in the wake of the ruling that he and his wife decided 30 years ago to home-school their children, feeling at the time that public schools were “not teaching the basics and [were] erasing our history and heritage.”
Years later, he said that he and his family wanted to ensure that others learned the origins of American heritage as well.
"I felt like we needed to have a monument there to show current and future generations where a lot of our laws derive from,” he said. “That’s how the monument evolved.”
**This undated file photo originally supplied by American Movie Classics, shows Yvonne De Carlo, third from left, kneeling beside Charlton Heston as he played Moses and she played his wife in "The Ten Commandments." (AP Photo/American Movie Classics, FILE)
But Ritze said that he never intended for the symbol to be seen as religious, instead calling it a historical necessity that provides context for all citizens regarding the emergence and crafting of American law.
“I like history and I look at history and what we were teaching our children … we wanted to link them to as much as the original history — different facts that are being erased in our history,” he said. “In no way, shape or form did we want the monument to be a religious symbol. This is historical heritage of our birth as a nation and birth as a state.”
The Ten Commandments monument has been a point of contention since 2012, when Ritze’s family paid $10,000 to privately fund it. Two years later, a man reportedly crashed his car into the display, claiming that the devil made him do it; Ritze again paid to repair the structure.
Meanwhile, the Satanic Temple, a New York group, has railed against the Ten Commandments display, with plans of its own to place a satanist monument on capitol grounds in an effort to rail against the Judeo-Christian-themed display. The group’s members have temporarily halted those plans in light of the Supreme Court decision, and will likely place the display in another state, according to Talking Points Memo.
Read more about the debate here.