The Oklahoma Supreme Court dealt yet another blow to a controversial Ten Commandments display that has been on capitol grounds since 2012, declining an appeal on Monday to reconsider a recent ruling that mandated its removal.
A Ten Commandments monument erected outside the Oklahoma state Capitol is shown on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012. (Sean Murphy/AP)
"We carefully consider the arguments of the commission and find no merit warranting a grant of rehearing," Chief Justice John Reif wrote in the high court's decision, according to Reuters.
He continued, "The text of the Ten Commandments displayed on the monument begins with the declaration ‘I AM the LORD thy GOD.' This declaration is followed by four directions for the worship of God."
The basis for the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision is the state's constitution, which precludes the use of land from offering a benefit to any one religion, though proponents have argued that the display is not exclusively religious in nature.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the court overturned previous decisions in a 7-2 ruling on June 30, saying that the Ten Commandments display exclusively promotes the Jewish and Christian faiths and is “obviously religious in nature.”
The state continues to explore legal options following the court's refusal to rehear the case.
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin previously issued a statement earlier this month after the initial Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, 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.”
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.”
The legislature has reportedly been exploring examining the state’s Constitution to see if changes can be made to permit the Ten Commandments display; the lawsuit against it was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Obviously we're pleased with the decision. The whole case is controversial, but something that is undeniable is that the court is getting this right," Brady Henderson, legal director of the organization's Oklahoma office, told the Oklahoman on Monday. "The court is following the law."
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.”
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com
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 the release of an 8-foot-tall bronze statue of a goat-headed deity that they hope to place on public land to rival the traditional, Judeo-Christian symbol.
Read more about the controversy here.