OKLAHOMA CITY – Several lawmakers on Monday were highly critical of a proposal by the New York City-based Satanic Temple to build a monument near the recently erected Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol grounds.
"I think it is a joke," said Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.
"This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state," said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. "I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation."
"It is not something the people of Oklahoma would support, and the people of Oklahoma support the Ten Commandments monument," said Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa.
"It is not going to get approved here without a court battle," said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove. "I can assure you."
The Ten Commandments monument was paid for with $10,000 donated by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. Mike Ritze and his family plus $10,000 raised privately.
Ritze declined to comment on the latest developments.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed suit to have the Ten Commandments monument removed.
It was authorized by a 2009 measure signed by former Gov. Brad Henry. Ritze was the House sponsor of the measure, House Bill 1330.
"I think that our position is there shouldn't be any religious monuments at the state Capitol, that anytime the government has a monument representing one faith it creates an atmosphere that is not welcoming to people of all faiths or non-believers," said Ryan Kiesel, ACLU of Oklahoma executive director. "If, at the end of the day, the Ten Commandments monument is allowed to remain on the Capitol grounds with its overtly Christian message, then the Satanic Temple's proposal can't be rejected because it is of a different religious viewpoint."
Lucien Greaves, a temple spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
But in a press release, the proposed monument is described as a homage to Satan. Its purpose is to contrast and complement the Ten Commandments monument.
"By accepting our offer, the good people of Oklahoma City will have the opportunity to show that they espouse the basic freedoms spelled out in the Constitution," Greaves said in the press release. "We imagine that the ACLU would also embrace such a response."
In a Nov. 17 letter to the Capitol Preservation Commission, which oversaw installation of the Ten Commandments monument, Greaves said the monument would abide by community standards and be in good taste.
"He's (Ritze's) helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could," Greaves told The Associated Press. "You don't walk around and see too many satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that's when you're going to see us."
Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said the New York group is trying to place a monument on the Capitol grounds for religious purposes and will be unsuccessful. The Ten Commandments monument, on the other hand, was put up for historical purposes, Reynolds said.
"I am somewhat disappointed we are facing this sort of thing," said Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa. "We sort of knew this might happen. I know nothing of about this group. I have never heard of them. I think we opened the door and have to have a process to have it vetted."