Written by Don Byrd

A Ten Commandments monument situated on the grounds of the State Capitol may not be constitutional, even if it looks identical to one found lawful elsewhere. That is the message of a federal judge’s ruling in Oklahoma last week, allowing a church-state lawsuit there to proceed.

The state argued the monument should be allowed because of its similarity to the one found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. But the judge emphasized that more than just the visual elements of a monument are at stake in determining whether the government’s display impermissibly promotes religion.

Here is a snippet from the ruling (my emphasis):

It is the context in which a monument exists that plays a significant role in whether or not a monument runs afoul of the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court in Van Orden recognized this fact as it noted the monument challenged in that case was in a large park containing 17 monuments and 21 historical markers all designed to illustrate the “ideals” of those who settled in Texas. The presence of other monuments created a context in which the display promoted historical significance, rather than solely religious belief.

In this case, on the other hand, the monument stands alone. The decision rejects the state’s request for a dismissal, meaning the case will go forward. The ACLU has also filed suit in state court challenging this display  Stay tuned.