First up from the God Machine this week is a major court ruling in Oklahoma, where state officials have been told to stop promoting one religion’s scared tenets on the Capitol grounds. The Tulsa World reported this week:
The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol must be removed.The plaintiffs said its placement at the Capitol constituted the use of public property for the benefit of a system of religion, which is banned by the Oklahoma Constitution.
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, it was hard to even imagine how this could be legally permissible.
The state Supreme Court issued a 7-2 ruling against the government-endorsed religious display, siding in support of a suit brought by the ACLU of Oklahoma.
The Republican-led state legislature has been a little hysterical since the decision was handed down, and state House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R) said impeachment proceedings against the Supreme Court’s majority “will be seriously considered.”
Other state lawmakers are calling for repealing the relevant portion of the state Constitution, so that religion and government can be more easily merged together.
Legal controversies surrounding Oklahoma’s official endorsement of the Ten Commandments have been percolating for a while, with a variety of other groups – including Satanists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – seeking equal treatment for their proposed monuments on the Capitol grounds. The argument has long been that Oklahoma can’t play favorites – if Christians can ignore the state Constitution and have a monument for their sacred text, so can everyone else. Either the door is open to everyone or no one.
At least for now, according to the state Supreme Court, the law requires the latter.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), the chairman of the House Tea Party Caucus, insisted this week that “the left” will push churches to accept polygamy in response to national marriage equality. I’m reasonably sure that’s wrong on multiple levels.
* The Episcopal Church last weekend elected its first African-American presiding bishop. Soon after, it also voted overwhelmingly to permit Episcopal clergy to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples.
* The United Church of Christ, one of the nation’s larger and more liberal Protestant denominations, voted this week to approve a resolution “calling for divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation or control of Palestinian territories, and a boycott of products from Israeli settlements.”
* And Sarah Posner reported this week on the behind-the-scenes efforts to build a Bible museum near the national mall in Washington, D.C. According to its tax returns, the museum has already received more than $230 million in tax-deductible donations over the past three years.