Oklahoma governor signs Ten Commandments bill

OKLAHOMA CITY (ABP) -- Oklahoma's Democratic governor ignored pleas of fellow Baptists to veto a measure authorizing erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds.

OKLAHOMA CITY (ABP) -- Oklahoma's Democratic governor ignored pleas of fellow Baptists to veto a measure authorizing erection of a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds.

Gov. Brad Henry is a member of First Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla.
Gov. Brad Henry signed HB1330 without comment May 18, clearing the way for a privately funded monument recognizing the Ten Commandments' influence on America's legal system and society.

Groups including Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty had both encouraged Henry, a member of First Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., to veto the bill on the principle of separation of church and state.

"We should be more concerned with following the Ten Commandments rather than merely posting them on government property," Hollyn Hollman, the Baptist Joint Committee's general counsel, said in a statement. "Religion flourishes best when the separation of church and state is protected."

The bill, modeled after a Texas law the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional in 2005, passed both houses of the legislature by veto-proof margins. The bill's sponsor, Republican House member Mike Ritze, indicated his family would pay for placement and upkeep of the monument.

Ritze, a physician and long-time member of Arrow Heights Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Broken Arrow, Okla., told media the text used for the monument would be the King James Version, because "it is the easiest to understand."

Henry's church, where he has served as both a Sunday school teacher and deacon, is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The governor is scheduled to deliver a testimony at the New Baptist Covenant Midwest Region gathering Aug. 6-7 in Norman, Okla.

The Ten Commandments law, which takes effect Nov. 1, specifies that placement of the monument "shall not be construed to mean that the State of Oklahoma favors any particular religion or denomination thereof over others, but rather will be placed on the Capitol grounds where there are numerous other monuments."

It notes the Ten Commandments are "an important component of the foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma," that "courts of the United States of America and of various states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions" and "acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation's heritage are common throughout America."

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