The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, along with the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, the national Interfaith Alliance, the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Respect Diversity Foundation, and others issued the following statement to Governor Mary Fallin and the leadership of the Oklahoma legislature calling on the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the Oklahoma Capitol grounds. Members of all the supporting agencies are being invited to copy this letter and send it to their respective Senators and Representatives.
“We strongly support the decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, that the Ten Commandments monument should not be on the grounds of our state Capitol. Others have pointed out that this monument on state government property violates the letter and spirit of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Oklahoma County District Attorney has made an eloquent personal statement, as a committed Christian, as to why placing this monument on the grounds of state government is inappropriate, offensive to many, and even hypocritical.
“The wording of the Oklahoma Constitution is very clear and the Supreme Court has done what it is supposed to do – to rule on the constitutionality of a law or action. We urge that our legislators, Governor, other Oklahoma officials, and Oklahoma citizens accept and obey this ruling. This was not a close decision, but a 7 to 2 vote, so a reversal of their decision was very unlikely. The Oklahoma Attorney General asked for a judicial review of the decision, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court turned this down. Further attempts to reverse this decision would be a significant waste of taxpayers’ money.
“The Ten Commandments are important to many of us as a religious document. That they are part of the expression of our religious beliefs, and play a role in guiding our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings is not altered or prevented by insisting that the state abstain from any action, including funding, that would favor or promote any one religion or part thereof. There is nothing in our national constitution nor in our state constitution that refers to the Ten Commandments. To treat them as an “historical document” trivializes their religious significance, and is not an acceptable argument for placing them on the grounds of government property.
“Those who would like to classify our nation as a Christian nation would do a grave disservice to the founders of our nation and to the citizens of our nation and state today. Our founders, whatever their personal religious beliefs, clearly were opposed to the creation of a theocracy. Governed by colonial England, in which there was an official state religion, and in which the relationship between crown and church involved a history of persecution of other religions, they had no desire to allow anything similar to be part of the free nation they were creating here in America. Indeed, they realized then, as we should realize now, that the various legislative proposals that would move us in the direction of a national religion would lead to a nation in which people of all but one religion would be merely tolerated, second class citizens. Too many have forgotten the history of Protestant colonies persecuting Catholics, and Catholic colonies persecuting Protestants. Baptists had much to fear from other Christian denominations in the Colonies. Such a situation repeatedly has been the cause of prejudicial persecution in other nations over a span of centuries. How many people of various religions, including Christian denominations, fled their home countries for this reason? How many people of various faiths have been uprooted and/or persecuted by theocratic domination, something they hoped would not happen or that they did not think could happen? Our constitution seeks to preserve true freedom of religion: freedom of religion and freedom from religion, freedom to practice one’s religion of choice or not to do so.
“We also are very concerned about the calls to impeach members of the Supreme Court or to return to the discredited idea of electing and re-electing members of our higher courts. Our Supreme Court did exactly what it was supposed to do. Acting independently from the other branches of government, it decided NOT what the majority may want, but what is constitutional. Our nation’s founders knew how important it is to prevent the tyranny of the majority from depriving others of their constitutional rights. Our legislative branch has the right to make laws. We expect our legislators to be smart enough and responsible enough not to pass laws which, predictably, are unconstitutional and will waste taxpayers’ money with subsequent appeals. The current process for selection of justices in our higher courts is a good one, one that provides for selection of highly competent individuals, preserves their independence, and prevents legislators or the governor from threatening them when their decision is not what the legislature or governor want.”
Carl J. Rubenstein, MD, President
Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
Rev. Bob Lawrence, Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa
Rabbi Jack Moline, Executive Director
Interfaith Alliance, National Office
Jayme Cox, President & CEO
Oklahoma Center for Community & Justice (OCCJ)
Joan & Michael Korenblit
Respect Diversity Foundation
Rabbi Vered Harris
Temple B’nai Israel, Oklahoma City
Rabbi Abby Jacobson
Temple Emanuel, Oklahoma City