First up from the God Machine this week is the likely final chapter in the fight over the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma state capitol – at least until state officials change the Constitution.
Though there were some concerns Oklahoma would defy a state Supreme Court ruling, workers this week removed the stone Christian monument from the Capitol grounds late Monday night. The time of day is relevant – officials feared protesters might interfere with the removal of the 2,000-pound granite religious monument. A “large Oklahoma Highway Patrol presence” was on hand.
As it turns out, however, the end of this chapter may mark the beginning of another. As the Tulsa World reported, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and her allies are already moving forward with a plan to bring back the state-endorsed religious display.
The day after the Ten Commandments monument was removed from the Capitol, Gov. Mary Fallin urged lawmakers to act quickly to let voters decide if it would return. […]Lawmakers have filed legislation to let people vote to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to allow the monument to stay on the Capitol grounds. The Legislature returns in February to the Capitol.
Keep in mind, the Commandments monument is still accessible to the public – it was only moved a few blocks, relocated to private property – but conservative officials in Oklahoma believe that’s inadequate. What’s necessary is for state government to intervene, endorsing the religious monument, and giving the Commandments an official governmental endorsement, even if it takes changing the state Constitution.
As regular readers may recall, state law isn’t especially ambiguous. Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution says public property can’t be used to benefit or support any “sect, church, denomination, or system of religion,” either directly or indirectly. When state lawmakers approved a monument to the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments, they violated the law.
And so the proposed solution is to change the state Constitution – if it requires government neutrality, Fallin and her allies hope to have voters change the law so that the government can take sides in matters of faith, because that always works out well for everyone, right?
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A week ago today, the Vatican “fired a monsignor who came out as gay on the eve of a big meeting of the world’s bishops to discuss church outreach to gays, divorcees and more traditional Catholic families. The Vatican took action after Krzysztof Charamsa, a mid-level official in its doctrine office, came out in newspaper interviews in Italy and Poland saying he was happy and proud to be a gay priest, and that he was in love with a man whom he identified as his boyfriend.”
* An alarming story out of Maryland: “In what seems to be a case of genuine religious persecution, a Hindu dental technician working on a contract with the U.S. Air Force says she was fired because of her religious beliefs. And in a move that has been described as ‘a literal ‘witch hunt,” her former co-workers even accused her of practicing witchcraft.”
* A police department in Texas: “The Childress police chief told the Freedom From Religion Foundation to ‘go fly a kite’ in a response letter after being asked to remove ‘In God We Trust’ decals from CPD patrol units” (thanks to my colleague Will Femia for the heads-up).
* And though it’s only approaching mid-October, some in conservative media are insisting that “the ‘war on Christmas’ is already in full swing.”