BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Thursday, March 18, 2010
3/18/10 at 8:54 AM
STIGLER — For more than five years, a Ten Commandments monument on Haskell County government land generated litigation and far-reaching discussion.
The marker's relocation on Wednesday, however, unearthed little more than dirt.
Amid a contingent made largely of about a half-dozen media members, workers completed the move of the 8-foot-by-3-foot granite slab from the Haskell County courthouse lawn to a spot about a block east.
The marker now rests on private property belonging to American Legion Post 22, said Janice Williams, executive director of the Stigler-Haskell County Chamber of Commerce.
"We're glad that it's where it is, and most of the people in town are glad that it's over with," said Williams, adding that the chamber leases its office from the American Legion. "They are disappointed that it had to be moved, but they are glad that it's finally over and the statue has a home that's visible to the public."
With the help of a crane and flatbed trailer, workers from Muskogee Marble & Granite Co. took up the roughly 2,600-pound monument at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. They left about two and a half hours later, having placed it in a concrete foundation at the corner of Main and S.E. Third streets, said Weldon Key, the company's owner.
"We're willing to help the county in any way we can, but it's a shame it had to happen," Key said. "In all honesty, it really is a better location. It's more visible out there.
The monument transfer came after the U.S. Supreme Court refused in March to hear a dispute over the religious marker, which was approved by county commissioners in September 2004 and installed on courthouse grounds two months later.
The justices let stand a lower court decision that the monument must go. A federal appeals court ruled last year that it amounted to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the county commission.
U.S. District Judge Ronald White of the Eastern District of Oklahoma had ordered the monument removed from the property in a document dated in August.
White originally had ruled the monument constitutional, but his ruling was overturned by the appeals court.
Diann Barber, a secretary in the county commissioners' office, said she had received many calls from people "very upset" about the marker's transfer.
"No one knew exactly when it was going to happen," Barber said of the lack of spectators at the move. "I didn't even know it was gone until a while ago."
As workers poured and leveled cement Wednesday, a woman with her vehicle's window rolled down drove past, honked her horn and gave the thumbs-up sign. A short time later, what appeared to be the same motorist clapped and hollered.
Key said his company donated the cost of the $1,250 monument job.
Mike Bush, a local preacher who was instrumental in getting the marker erected in 2004, is paying for its concrete foundation, which will cost about $500, Key said.
The Ten Commandments contains both religious and secular directives, including proscriptions on stealing, killing and adultery. The Bible says God gave the list to Moses.
Capitol monument still planned
A federal appeals court ruled last year that
the Ten Commandments monument in Haskell
County was unconstitutional because county
commissioners authorized it and referred to
their Christian beliefs in support of it.
State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, is designing
and developing a Ten Commandments
monument that could be erected by June on the
Ritze wrote legislation that was approved by
the Legislature last year calling for a privately
funded monument on the Capitol grounds.
The legislator said he believes that monument
will withstand a legal challenge because
his proposal is modeled after a Texas law that
withstood a challenge in the U.S. Supreme
Attorney General Drew Edmondson has said
the state’s proposed marker more resembles
the Haskell County monument that it does the
The Texas monument was part of an array of
monuments dealing with history and the law,
Edmonson has said. It was placed by a fraternal
No legal challenge has been filed in regard to
the proposed monument at the Capitol, but Edmonson
has said he expects such a challenge.
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Rhett Morgan 581-8395
Workers with Muskogee Marble & Granite Co., Tommy Byrd (left), and his cousin Joe Byrd stabilize a granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments while moving it from the Haskell County Courthouse grounds to the nearby lawn of the American Legion in Stigler on Wednesday. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Weldon Key (left), owner of Muskogee Marble & Granite Co., helps worker Keith Green position a monument bearing the Ten Commandments at its new location on land owned by the American Legion in Stigler on Wednesday after moving it from the county courthouse grounds a block away. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World