Oklahoma City, Okla. (CBS HOUSTON) — An atheist group’s lawsuit filed this week alleges that not only is the State of Oklahoma’s display of the Ten Commandments on Capitol grounds unconstitutional, but that the majority of each of the Judeo-Christian commandments are themselves in violation of the US Constitution.
The lawsuit from American Atheists Inc. states that the Oklahoma display of the Ten Commandments on Capitol grounds is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Supremacy Clause. Additionally, the individual Biblical commandments are themselves in direct violation of state and federal laws.
Included complaints state that the Third Commandment against taking God’s name in vain violates “every citizen’s right to free speech,” and the Fourth Commandment’s requirement to keep the Sabbath Day “holy” should be considered an illegal “religious test.”
The American Civil Liberties Union originally filed suit against the Ten Commandments display in August, with the case’s argument resting squarely on the premise that the state legislature’s direct action to support a “law respecting the establishment of religion,” is in direct opposition to state and US law.
The lawsuit notes that the members of the state legislature who voted for this law “respecting an establishment of religion” are in violation of their oath to uphold the Constitution.
This prompted a series of religious groups – including Satanists, Hindus and Pastafarians – to launch requests for their own displays on Capitol grounds.
Republican Rep. John Bennett crafted a bill in response that would declare “historically significant documents” to be displayed “proudly and resolutely in public buildings and on public grounds.” The move would open the path for the Ten Commandments display on Capitol grounds.
However, the suit filed Monday by the American Atheists Inc. takes aim at the very constitutionality of the Biblical Ten Commandments themselves.
“The first commandment of the Display, if it were part of Oklahoma law, would be unconstitutional, because it would establish, at a minimum, Jewish and Christian monotheism as the law of the land,” reads the lawsuit filed the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma.
“The second commandment of the Display prohibits the making of ‘graven images.’ However, if this commandment were part of Oklahoma law, it would fail as a violation of citizens’ free speech and expression rights protected under the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions. From the foundation of the United States, the making of graven images has been part and parcel of being an American, honoring our Founding Fathers, and honoring the United States.”
American Atheists defines itself as a non-profit, non-political organization “dedicated to advancing and promoting, in all lawful ways, the complete and absolute separation of church and state and to preserving equal protection for atheists of the constitutional protections found in the Bill of Rights, and, in particular, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The suit cites plaintiff “Aimee Breeze,” a member of American Atheists and a resident of Oklahoma who views the Ten Commandment Display as “hurtful and exclusive,” which has resulted in her avoiding the area at the Capitol. Breeze and other Oklahoma residents looking to exercise their First Amendment rights to petition the government are “harmed by the sponsorship and endorsement of religious messages by the State of Oklahoma.”
Continuing in its criticism of the Ten Commandments specifically, the lawsuit notes that the display shows a translation and Protestant “interpretation” of the Biblical text, and that there is “no universally agreed-upon definitive version” of the Ten Commandments from “original” and historical Judeo-Christian sources.
The suit concedes that the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth commandments “are all commonly understood ‘wrongs,’ and they are the only ones which hold up to state and federal laws in the United States.