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Monday, December 09, 2019

Ten Commandments Typos Highlight Why Monument Doesn’t Belong At State Capitol

Give Oklahoma state representative Mike Ritze (R) a little credit. The Ten Commandments monument he pushed to have placed at Oklahoma’s state capitol was entirely funded by private donations. And that’s a good thing, especially considering that the granite depiction of the Decalogue contains prominent spelling errors.

“Sabbath” is spelt “Sabbeth” in the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” The granite monument also reads, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruent.” The correct spelling is “maidservant.”

The bill that established the monument states, “The Ten Commandments found in the Bible, Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21, are an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma.”

However, the directives to honor the Sabbath and refrain from envy of a neighbor are perfect examples of religious laws that do not fall under the scope of American jurisprudence. Much of government is closed on both the Jewish and Christian Sabbath days, Saturday and Sunday. But is a police officer violating the law if he doesn’t keep the Sabbath? Likewise, envy is specifically a moral failing that’s only applicable to the law if it translates into criminal activity.

If the monument celebrates the historical value of the Ten Commandments for secular purposes, it is likely acceptable on state property, according to the Supreme Court. But if the laws are suggested as the foundation of the state in a religious way, it likely violates the First Amendment.

“When legislatures set up a monument that seems to put one faith above others, it creates an environment where some visitors will feel like second-class citizens,” said Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the ACLU’s state chapter. “I think under the very best of circumstances, it is of questionable constitutionality.”

If the ACLU does challenge the monument as it has in other instances when the Ten Commandments have been displayed on public grounds, Rep. Ritze says this will not cost the taxpayers. The Liberty Legal Foundation, a group with a birther past, has promised to defend the monument at no cost to the state.

Oklahoma voters passed a state Constitutional amendment banning judges from considering Muslim Sharia or international law in the decisions in 2010. A Federal Appeals court prevented the law from going into effect.

Meanwhile, Ritze plans to have the monument’s typos fixed. “Scribner’s errors or misspellings are not uncommon with monument manufacturing,” he said.

For now, the errors are just reminders that no one’s perfect.

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