Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ACLU Files Suit Against Oklahoma Ten Commandments Monument

The Tulsa World is breaking the story about the lawsuit against placing the Ten Commandments Monument on the grounds at the State Capitol in Oklahoma. 

 I am the lead plaintiff. Jim Huff, another Mainstream Baptist, is also a plaintiff. 

 The suit was filed yesterday by the ACLU. The ACLU will issue a press release later today.   Link to the full text of Prescott vs. The Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission.

 Here is the text of the complaint I filed last year with Ryan Kiesel and the Oklahoma office of the ACLU about the Ten Commandments monument:

 Dear Ryan,

 This correspondence is to let you know that I have been to the Oklahoma State Capitol and have discovered that it is virtually impossible to use the stairs on the Northeast corner of the building without being forced to view the highly offensive Ten Commandments monument that was recently erected on the Capitol grounds.

 I frequently visit the State Capitol to discuss pending legislation for a variety of causes.

For example, I am on the board for Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education (OESE). I visited the Capitol at least three times this year to address state legislators about legislation effecting science education.

 I also am a member of the impact committee for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. We monitor legislation that would have an effect on five areas of concern to Conference Churches -- criminal justice, education, environment, immigration and poverty. I participated in the OCC annual day at the legislature and visited the Capitol more than three times this year to address state legislators about legislation effecting these concerns.

 I am also a member of the Sierra Club. I participated in their day at the legislature this year and on at least two occasions addressed state legislators about legislation that would have an impact on the environment.

 I am also a member of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. I participated in a rally to oppose the personhood amendment and spoke to state legislators about this legislation on at least two occasions this year.

 All of the above activities were outside responsibilities regarding legislation that are part of my job as Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

 In regard to my official duties with Mainstream Baptists and the New Baptist Covenant movement, I visited the State Capitol on three occasions to discuss statewide opposition to payday lending among Baptists involved with the New Baptist Covenant movement and discussed the possibility that legislation be sponsored that would put a cap on the amount of interest that payday lenders can charge in this state.

 As these examples indicate, I have been a frequent visitor to the Oklahoma State Capitol. That is why I urge you to take some action to address constitutional concerns about the Ten Commandments monument that has been erected on the Capitol grounds.  That monument is an affront to every person who affirms that the U.S. Constitution's first amendment prohibits the government from establishing religion.

 I am a Baptist minister. I am not opposed to the ten commandments. In fact, I exhort people to obey them. I am not opposed to monuments to the ten commandments that are placed on private property and/or on the grounds of religious institutions. I am opposed to erecting ten commandments monuments on public property and particularly on the grounds of the State Capitol where people of different faiths and of no faith go to exercise their rights as citizens.

Baptists in the revolutionary era were instrumental in supporting the passage of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Those Baptists, my spiritual ancestors, were determined to insure that every citizen had "liberty of conscience," i.e., the freedom to worship or not worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. That is why they were adamant in denying support for the Constitution until it separated church and state and protected the equal rights of citizenship for all religious minorities. That is a legacy of which Mainstream Baptists are most proud in our religious tradition. And that is why we find the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol so offensive. In effect, it sends a signal that certain faith traditions are endorsed and sanctioned by the government while those who adhere to other faith traditions are second class citizens in their own society.

 I do hope you will take action to challenge the constitutionality of this Ten Commandments monument.

 Be assured that the Mainstream Oklahoma Baptist organization and I will do everything possible to assist you in such efforts.

 Sincerely, Rev. Bruce Prescott, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Reprise of Oklahoma's Monument to American Theocracy

A challenge to the ten commandments monument at the Oklahoma state capitol will soon be in the news. Here is a reprise of blogs I wrote about the ten commandments monument at the courthouse in Haskell County Oklahoma seven years ago.

This is a four part series about the Ten Commandments Monument on the Haskell County Courthouse lawn in Stigler, Oklahoma.

Part One, gives an opinion on whether the monument is religious in nature and whether it endorses biblical religion.

Part Two, gives and opinion on whether the monument endorses a sectarian interpretation of the Bible and whether it endorses a Christian covenant.

Part Three, gives an opinion on whether the monument could be perceived to endorse a Christian theocracy.

Part Four, gives and opinion on whether the monument strongly endorses a Christian democratic theocracy.