- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Republican legislator whose family paid $10,000 for a Ten Commandments monument that is at the center of a lawsuit said he has ordered a new one after someone drove a car across the statehouse lawn and smashed it into pieces.

State Rep. Mike Ritze said he has ordered an identical Ten Commandments monument that is currently under construction and, like the first one, will be built entirely with private funds.

“We can’t repair the old one, so we have ordered another monument identical to the one that was torn down,” said Ritze, of Broken Arrow. “The fundraising is ongoing.”

The 6-foot-tall granite monument was erected in 2012 on the north side of the Capitol after a bill authorizing it was passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2009 and signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat.

Last month, someone drove a car onto the statehouse lawn and directly into the monument, smashing it into several pieces. A 29-year-old man was arrested the next day after he showed up at a federal building in Oklahoma City and acknowledged destroying the monument, according to a police report. The man was admitted to a hospital for a mental evaluation, but formal charges have not been filed.

The original monument was challenged by a Norman man who has sued to have it removed, arguing it violates the state Constitution’s prohibition against the use of public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.”

But an Oklahoma County judge ruled in September that the monument serves a secular - not religious - purpose and does not violate the state constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the suit on behalf of Norman minister Bruce Prescott, has appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The monument’s placement on a landing on the north side of the Capitol building has led others to seek their own on the Capitol grounds, including a satanic group that earlier this year had constructed a 7-foot-tall statue that depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard.

Similar requests for monuments have been made by a Hindu leader in Nevada, an animal rights group and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy


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