OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Ten Commandments
displays at courthouses does not address the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments
monument on the courthouse grounds in Stigler, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down Ten Commandments
displays in two Kentucky courthouses because they promoted a religious message, but upheld a display outside the courthouse at the Texas Capitol because it was a legitimate tribute to the nation's religious and legal history.
The court ruled religious displays are not inherently unconstitutional and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
``It is not a blanket opinion,'' said Chris Wilson, district attorney for Haskell and Pittsburg Counties, which include Stigler. ``It doesn't say in every situation that arises here's what to do. It's two cases going opposite ways and they're both 5-4 decisions. There's room there for a lot of legal discussion.''
The court's ruling ``neither condemns nor clears the Haskell County monument,'' Edmondson said in a news release.
``It doesn't answer the question,'' said Charlie Price, Edmondson's spokesman. ``It's going to come down to someone specifically addressing that specific monument.''
The 8-feet, $2,500 monument, funded by efforts of Stigler-area residents and church members, was erected in November last year after approval from the Haskell County Commission.
The monument has a copy of the Mayflower Compact on the opposite side, which Edmondson said could keep it from being removed by a court. In addition, it is placed alongside three other monuments honoring people who died in the Civil War, the Trail of Tears, World War I and World War II.
Mike Bush, a lay minister and construction worker who asked the commission for permission and raised the roughly $2,500 the monument cost, couldn't be reached for comment on Monday.
Wilson said he was hesitant to render an opinion on the monument's legality based on the Supreme Court's decisions because he would represent the county if a lawsuit is filed.
``Ultimately, regardless of what the Supreme Court decision is, a person still could bring a cause of action in Oklahoma regarding this particular monument,'' he said.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Monday's decision was another example of ``activist judges ignoring the Constitution and our founding principles.
``In an astonishing act of judicial hypocrisy, the Supreme Court outlawed some Ten Commandments
displays as they sat beneath a display of the Ten Commandments
Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., said he will try again to get approval for a constitutional amendment allowing more religious expression in schools and other public forums.
Istook, who has been working since 1995 to get the House to pass his Religious Freedom Amendment, said ``outrage isn't enough'' over decisions that limit religious expression in public places.
``We've got to act,'' he said.
Sam Cole, Haskell County commissioner, said officials will fight efforts to have the display taken down.
``We're not going to lie down and play dead,'' Cole said.
If a lawsuit is filed, it would be up to the courts to decide whether or not the monument could stand.
Tina Izadi, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, would not say if the ACLU plans to file a lawsuit against Haskell County.
She said the display appears impermissible under the Supreme Court's rulings.
``It's not approaching religion in a neutral fashion,'' Izadi said. ``It's endorsing a specific religious text. We're hoping that Stigler will act accordingly but we're investigating.''