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LIVE: Parts of Oklahoma under tornado watch

Ten Commandments monument is installed at Oklahoma state Capitol

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com November 15, 2012

A Ten Commandments monument is up on the grounds of the state Capitol, but it didn't pass spell check.

“Remember the Sabbeth day, to keep it holy,” reads one.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidseruent,” reads the last one.

Rep. Mike Ritze, whose family paid for the monument that was put up Thursday, said the monument company has been contacted and will correct the errors to the words Sabbath and maidservant.

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“It's a simple fix,” said Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who hasn't seen the installed monument. “Scribner's errors or misspellings are not uncommon with monument manufacturing.”

The changes likely will be made well before a decision is made by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma to file a lawsuit over whether the monument is a violation of separation of state.

Ryan Kiesel, the organization's executive director, said a constitutional challenge is being discussed.

“It's premature at this point for us to say whether or not we're going to litigate this particular monument,” he said.

“It's something that we are keeping an eye on, and we are reviewing the circumstances of the monument being placed at the state Capitol.”

Private donations

The monument was installed Thursday morning, three years after legislation was passed authorizing its placement on the Capitol grounds. No ceremony was held, and only a few spectators were on hand.

The monument and the base it sits on were paid for with private funds. The Ritze family paid a private contractor to install the monument and has agreed to pay maintenance costs.

“The state didn't do anything on that,” said John Morrison, administrator of the state's capital assets management division. “It was all private donations.”

The monument, about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, is on the east side of the sidewalk near the north entrance of the Capitol, which has been closed for years.

Ritze authored legislation in 2009 authorizing the monument on the Capitol grounds. The measure won bipartisan support; 83-2 in the House of Representatives and 38-8 in the Senate.

Kiesel, then a Democratic House member, was among 16 absent when the final vote in the House was taken.

“When the people of Oklahoma go to the state Capitol, they should feel welcomed there, regardless of whatever religion they practice or even if they don't practice anything at all,” Kiesel said Thursday.

“One of the concerns of the Founders that they addressed through the First Amendment in the separation of church and state was that they wanted to ensure that all citizens regardless of their faith or no faith at all were equal in the eyes of the government.”

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