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January 15, 2014

Lawsuit filed over Okla. Ten Commandments monument

OKLAHOMA CITY —

Another lawsuit has been filed challenging the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Capitol.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in federal court by a New Jersey-based nonprofit group, Americans Atheists Inc., and two of its members, Aimee Breeze of Oklahoma City and William Poire of Wagoner County. The lawsuit is the latest challenge filed over the monument, which was installed on the Capitol grounds in 2012 after lawmakers approved it in 2009. The monument was donated by state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow.

The lawsuit claims the monument is a state-sponsored endorsement of religion and therefore unconstitutional, The Oklahoman reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/1eSILGB ). The lawsuit contends that Breeze is involved in advocacy events and regularly travels to the Capitol for legislative sessions.

“While at the state Capitol, (Breeze) is confronted by the Ten Commandments display, which she views as hurtful and exclusive and therefore avoids the area of the display while at the Capitol,” the complaint says.

The state attorney general’s office, which is defending the commission in a similar lawsuit filed in state court by the American Civil Liberties Union, had not received a copy of the lawsuit and declined comment.

The New York-based Satanic Temple has formally submitted plans to place a statue of Satan on the Capitol grounds, arguing that the state’s decision to allow the Ten Commandments monument opened the door for their display.

A moratorium on the placement of any other monuments on Capitol grounds was issued in December until the ACLU lawsuit is resolved.

If monuments are permitted by the state, American Atheists Inc. said it also wishes to erect one at the Capitol with its guiding principles written upon it. 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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