OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A six-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sat outside the Oklahoma State Capitol for several years is on its way out.
A panel that oversees artwork at the statehouse voted 7-1 on Tuesday to authorize the privately funded monument's removal after the state's highest court ruled that it violated the Oklahoma Constitution.
The Capitol Preservation Commission, which was named as a defendant in a lawsuit seeking the monument's removal, voted to authorize the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to remove the one-ton granite monument.
"We're going to meet with the builder who installed it and figure out the best way to remove it," said OMES spokesman John Estus. "We're also going to coordinate with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to address some ongoing security concerns that they have."
The monument has been a source of controversy since it was erected in 2012. Several groups have since made requests to have their own monuments installed, including a satanic church in New York that wants to erect a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard. A Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster also have made requests.
The original monument was smashed into pieces last year when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A 29-year-old man who was arrested the next day was admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed. A new monument was erected in January.
Several supporters of the monument attended Tuesday's meeting and complained about the commission's actions. Former Republican state Rep. Mike Reynolds attempted to address the panel, but acting chairwoman Linda Edmondson declined to recognize him.
"This is an illegal meeting," Reynolds argued.
Reynolds maintained that the commission only has the authority to approve or disapprove plans and that its power does not extend to areas outside of the Capitol building.
Estus said the monument will be removed by a court-ordered deadline of Oct. 12.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June that the monument's display violates a constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support "any sect, church, denomination or system of religion." A district court judge earlier this month ordered the monument to be removed within the next 30 days.
Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican from Broken Arrow whose family paid about $10,000 for the monument's construction, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on what he plans to do with the sculpture.
A bill authorizing the monument was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, in 2009. A Norman minister sued to have it removed, arguing that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt fought to keep the monument, maintaining that it serves a secular — not religious — purpose.
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