Less than two weeks ago on June 30th, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in a controversial 7-2 decision that a monument of the Ten Commandments must be removed from the capitol grounds because according to the court decision, it violated the state constitution which prohibits the use of public property, “for the benefit, or support of any system of religion.” The case was originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union who represented three plaintiffs. In a bold move to stand strong for her state’s heritage and religious liberties, Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallin, refused to remove the monument until an appeals process has run its course.
Not only did Governor Fallin instruct Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to file a petition for a rehearing of the case, but legislators are also now considering a constitutional amendment that would make allowance for the monument, something state law permits as a ballot initiative and could take place prior to the November, 2016 elections. According to Fallin, the appeal puts an automatic stay on the court decision—advocating a belief that the final say so should rest with the people. She said, “Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government.” This is a Governor who truly understands how our government works!
The statue in question was privately funded by Oklahoma State Representative Mike Ritze, from Broken Arrow, who had donated $10,000 for its installation in 2012. A spokesperson for the Governor commented, “The purpose of the monument has always been historical. It’s not a religious monument and not an endorsement of Judaism or Christianity.”
From the planting of a cross in the sands of Cape Henry when the first permanent English settlement was established in 1607—over 400 years—the Ten Commandments have always been an integral part of America’s heritage and rich history. They could be found posted in numerous locations, including courthouses, capitol grounds and public schools. Sadly, in 1980 (Stone v. Graham), the Supreme Court ruled that students could not be permitted—even voluntarily—to see a display of the Ten Commandments on school grounds. In his strong dissent, Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, affirmed, “It is equally undeniable…that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western World.”
While this case may have set a precedent leading to the removal of the Ten Commandments in public locations across the nation, not every battle has been lost. The U.S. Supreme Court—the same Court where evidence of the Ten Commandments is displayed—ruled in 2005 (Van Orden v. Perry) that a monument with the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state capitol in Austin was constitutional and could remain as it represented historical and not purely religious value.
Time and again, anti-faith groups over interpret the “separation of church and state” arguments in their quest to restrict religious freedom in this country. The truth is that every one of the fifty State Constitutions acknowledges God in their preambles. Professors Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, in their work, The Relative Influence of European Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought (1984), reviewed nearly 15,000 newspaper articles, pamphlets, books, monographs, etc., written from 1760-1805 by the 55 men who wrote the Constitution. Their research showed that the Bible was reflected in 34% of all quotations used by our Founding Fathers. Perhaps we should examine what some of our Founders and government leaders have actually said in the public record:
- “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supporters.” – George Washington in his farewell speech to Congress on September 19, 1796
- “Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God…What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region be.” – John Adams in a diary entry, February 22, 1756
- “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” – John Quincy Adams (Chairman of the American Bible Society) on July 4, 1821
- “We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves
according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments…We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.” – James Madison (primary author of the U.S. Constitution)
- “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.” – resolution passed in 1782
- “I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law…There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.” – Joseph Story (U.S. Supreme Court Justice from 1811-1845)
- “The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don’t think we emphasize that enough these days.” – Harry S Truman on February 15, 1950, at an Attorney General’s Conference.
- “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” – Calvin Coolidge in 1925
- “Without God there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first, the most basic expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus with God’s help, it will continue to be.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 20, 1955 in a speech to the American Legion
There is a grievous misunderstanding about our rights that is creating a false sense of security in many Americans. Our Constitution, written to be interpreted according to the intent of those who drafted it, is now considered to be a “living and breathing” document—one that can change based merely on the opinions, belief systems, cultural dictates and/or worldview of those who wield government authority. This trend is leading America down a very dangerous path.
States like Oklahoma are following suit, so we are heartened by the courageous and principled stand Governor Fallin and Attorney General Pruitt have taken after this recent ruling. Please pray for them and consider showing your support on Facebook, by calling, sending an email or a written note. Our leaders need encouragement, especially when they stand for religious liberty, and to know we are behind them.
The battlegrounds are not just threats posed by foreign enemies in distant lands, but also here within our own borders—for the fundamental freedoms and building blocks of our Constitution: Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of the Press. There has been a steady and concerted effort to undermine our Constitution for decades. These efforts target the next generation by eroding America’s rich spiritual heritage, blurring the lines between the Branches of Government and using the judicial branch to set precedents that effectively overrule the will of the people.
I leave you with this sobering quote from Ronald Reagan:
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”