A Ten Commandments monument is up on the grounds of the state Capitol, but it didn't pass spell check.
“Remember the Sabbeth day, to keep it holy,” reads one.
“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruent,” reads the last one.
Rep. Mike Ritze, whose family paid for the monument that was put up Thursday, said the monument company has been contacted and will correct the errors to the words Sabbath and maidservant.
“It's a simple fix,” said Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who hasn't seen the installed monument. “Scribner's errors or misspellings are not uncommon with monument manufacturing.”
The changes likely will be made well before a decision is made by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma to file a lawsuit over whether the monument is a violation of separation of state.
Ryan Kiesel, the organization's executive director, said a constitutional challenge is being discussed.
“It's premature at this point for us to say whether or not we're going to litigate this particular monument,” he said.
“It's something that we are keeping an eye on, and we are reviewing the circumstances of the monument being placed at the state Capitol.”
The monument was installed Thursday morning, three years after legislation was passed authorizing its placement on the Capitol grounds. No ceremony was held, and only a few spectators were on hand.
The monument and the base it sits on were paid for with private funds. The Ritze family paid a private contractor to install the monument and has agreed to pay maintenance costs.
“The state didn't do anything on that,” said John Morrison, administrator of the state's capital assets management division. “It was all private donations.”
The monument, about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, is on the east side of the sidewalk near the north entrance of the Capitol, which has been closed for years.
Ritze authored legislation in 2009 authorizing the monument on the Capitol grounds. The measure won bipartisan support; 83-2 in the House of Representatives and 38-8 in the Senate.
Kiesel, then a Democratic House member, was among 16 absent when the final vote in the House was taken.
“When the people of Oklahoma go to the state Capitol, they should feel welcomed there, regardless of whatever religion they practice or even if they don't practice anything at all,” Kiesel said Thursday.
“One of the concerns of the Founders that they addressed through the First Amendment in the separation of church and state was that they wanted to ensure that all citizens regardless of their faith or no faith at all were equal in the eyes of the government.”
The monument cost about $10,000, and costs to pay for the materials of the base and other work was about another $10,000, Ritze said.
Other markers upheld
Wording on the monument is similar to markers in Texas and Utah that have withstood the scrutiny of the U.S. Supreme Court, Ritze said.
Those markers stood on the Capitol grounds in Austin, Texas, and in a city park in Pleasant Grove, Utah, for decades before being challenged.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles, a benevolent organization, donated both markers.
Ritze, elected last year to the Legislature, said Cecil B. DeMille, director of the 1956 film epic “The Ten Commandments,” gave money to the Fraternal Order of Eagles to fund monuments across the country depicting the commandments. Some of the film's main stars, such as Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner, went to unveilings.
“Apparently they donated it, and it was never delivered or it was in storage some place,” he said.
After Ritze got elected in 2008, he contacted the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission about the monument. He said its whereabouts never could be determined, so he had one made.
Ritze said the Liberty Legal Institute, which was involved in the defense of the Texas monument, would be available to help the state attorney general's office defend any legal challenge.
Ritze said the monument re-emphasizes the history and heritage of America's legal system. American laws came from English law, which is rooted in Mosaic Law; the history of some of America's law can be traced to the Ten Commandments, he said.
“It is a historical presentation of where we get our laws,” Ritze said.
Kiesel disagreed. “It's disingenuous for supporters of placing this monument out there to say that this is purely a historical nature,” he said. “For them to discount the religious and spiritual underpinnings of the Ten Commandments would be offensive to the many Oklahomans that include the Ten Commandments in their faith.”