Oklahoma House committee passes bill allowing Ten Commandments to be displayed on public grounds

(Wikimedia Commons/Office of the Attorney General of Texas)A tablet displaying the Ten Commandments, located on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol.

A committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has recommended the passage of a bill that would allow the Ten Commandments and other historically significant documents to be displayed in publicly owned buildings, such as schools, city halls and courthouses.

House Bill 2177, introduced by Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, was passed on Thursday by the House General Government, Oversight and Accountability by a 7–1 vote, Tulsa World reported.

The bill lists the Magna Carta, Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, Bill of Rights, Oklahoma Constitution and other examples as historically significant documents.

In introducing the bill, Bennet said that he was mainly interested in the Ten Commandments, saying they have "impacted American law and culture with a force similar only to that of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Edmond, said that the Quran need not be included in the legislation because Islam did not play a significant role in the founding of America. He also said that the law is unlikely to be used to erect a monument for Satanism because it was not instrumental in the nation's founding.

The legislation also directs the state attorney general to prepare a legal defense in the event that the measure is signed into law.

When Bennett was asked about the cost of defending such a law, he said that the attorney general's office "already (has) people on staff, so it wouldn't really cost the state anything."

"If we didn't pass laws because we were afraid we'd be sued, we probably wouldn't pass any laws," Bennett added.

The passage of the bill came after the Ten Commandments at the state capitol was removed in October 2015, following a ruling from the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the display of the monument in August 2013, contending that its placement on the grounds of the state capitol building was unconstitutional.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the monument must be removed because it violates the state Constitution's prohibition on the use of government property to promote religion.

Last April, lawmakers approved a resolution to put the Ten Commandments controversy on the Oklahoma ballot. but it was rejected by voters, 57–42 percent.

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