Here in my home state of Oklahoma, the Ten Commandments made headlines this week.
More precisely, a monument to the "Thou shalts" and "Thou shalt nots" sparked a 7-2 decision by the state Supreme Court:
The Ten Commandments monument must be removed from the grounds of the state Capitol, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Justices ruled 7-2 the monument must go because the state constitution prohibits the use of public property to directly or indirectly benefit a “church denomination or system of religion.”
The decision touched off a furor at the Capitol with several lawmakers calling for impeachment of the seven justices who voted in the majority.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said he believes the court "got it wrong" and filed a petition for rehearing — a move that will at least delay removal of the monument.
If that fails, Pruitt called for changing the state constitution.
Not everyone was unhappy, however.
Brady Henderson, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, which filed the lawsuit, said he was "very pleased with the decision."
"I think it's the right decision and affirms the plain meaning of the state Constitution which has always stood for the idea that it isn't the government's business to tell us what are right or wrong choices when it comes to faith,” he said.
In a sidebar, Oklahoman Religion Editor Carla Hinton got reactions from Oklahoma religious leaders as well as the spokesman for a Satanic group. The Satanic Temple of New York had unveiled designs for a Capitol "statue of Satan as Baphomet — a goat-headed demon with horns, wings and a long beard":
The Associated Press stressed that the court's decision related to state, not federal, law:
Attorney General Scott Pruitt had argued that the monument was historical in nature and nearly identical to a Texas monument that was found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma justices said the local monument violated the state's constitution, not the U.S. Constitution.
"Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong," Pruitt said in a statement. "The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law."
Similarly, the Washington Post noted:
In the Oklahoma ruling, seven of the court’s nine justices noted that their opinion “rests solely on the Oklahoma constitution with no regard for federal jurisprudence.”
They continued: “As concerns the ‘historic purpose’ justification, the Ten Commandments are obviously religious in nature and are an integral part of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Because the monument at issue operates for the use, benefit or support of a sect or system of religion, it violates Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution and is enjoined and shall be removed.”
But after reading all the coverage — most of it balanced and straightforward — here's what I think is missing: more background on that Texas case.
What exactly did the U.S. Supreme Court say in its 2005 Van Orden v. Perry decision? And how might that precedent relate to the Oklahoma monument — particularly if lawmakers repeal the section of the state Constitution in question?
Those seem like relevant questions. Right?