Oklahoma Commandments Display Passes Court Test

A federal court has upheld display of a Ten Commandments monument on an Oklahoma courthouse lawn.

In a 43-page opinion handed down in mid-August, U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White chided the plaintiffs for bringing the challenge, bemoaned the federal court precedent regarding government displays of religious symbols, quoted Dante, discussed the Catholic Church’s definition of purgatory and laced the opinion with coy references to religion before concluding that the monument is constitutional.

White said the 8-foot-tall monument erected at the Haskell County Courthouse in Stigler in fall 2004 does not violate the principle of church-state separation.

Struggling through what he called First Amendment “limbo,” White concluded that Haskell County officials had not subverted the First Amendment by allowing a local citizen, backed by financing of “local religious leaders and church groups, all of the Christian faith,” to erect the religious display on the courthouse lawn.

The precedent surrounding public displays of religious symbols proved frustrating for White, who wrote, “Like wandering in the wilderness for forty years, it [church-state jurisprudence] really gets us little closer to the Promised Land.” (Green v. Board of County Commissioners)