Not even a popular governor dared stand in the way of the Ten Commandments. Gov. Brad Henry, with some polls showing him having a popularity rating of nearly 70 percent, signed without comment Monday a measure to place a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds. Had Henry vetoed House Bill 1330, it was likely the GOP-run Legislature would have overridden it, something that has occurred only once in the 61/2 years Henry has been governor. The measure easily passed both chambers: 83-2 in the House and 38-8 in the Senate. "It’s time now to go to the design part,” said Rep. Mike Ritze, the measure’s author and a freshman legislator. Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said the monument will re-emphasize the history and heritage of America’s legal system. "Our laws spring from English law, which is ultimately rooted in Mosaic Law,” he said. "The history of many of our current laws can be traced to the Ten Commandments, and this monument will simply acknowledge that heritage.” The measure takes effect Nov. 1. The State Capitol Preservation Commission is authorized to find a spot for the monument, according to the bill. Ritze said his family will pay for the design and construction of the 6-foot monolith, as well as maintenance costs. He estimated the monument’s cost to be about $10,000. Ritze said the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a similar monument’s existence on the Texas Capitol grounds. Ritze, a physician, said he didn’t know whether a lawsuit would be filed to challenge Oklahoma’s monument. "In this situation, there could be,” he said. "We’ve prepared for it in the bill.” The measure identifies the Liberty Legal Institute, which was involved in the defense of the Texas monument, as being available to help the attorney general’s office defend a legal challenge.
Reaction variesThe American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma may file a lawsuit depending on how it fares with its challenge to a Ten Commandments monument in Haskell County, said Tamya Cox, the group’s legislative counsel. "We’re very disappointed the governor signed House Bill 1330,” she said. "It usurped the First Amendment. Thankfully, we have until Nov. 1 before the monument could be erected, so we are going to definitely take our time.” The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty also opposed the monument being placed on the Capitol grounds. "We should be more concerned with following the Ten Commandments rather than merely posting them on government property,” said K. Hollyn Hollman, the committee’s general counsel. "Religion flourishes best when the separation of church and state is protected.” Sen. Randy Brogdon, Senate sponsor of HB 1330, said he is "tickled pink” the governor signed the measure. "He chose to be with the people on this one,” said Brogdon, R-Owasso. "It was widely supported by people around the state. I was pleasantly surprised.”