September 04, 2015

Food for Thought


Writing recently in the Tulsa World, Gonzaga law professor Mark DeForrest took issue with the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s denial of a motion to rehear its recent Ten Commandments case.
A final reason to doubt the court’s conclusion is its failure to harmonize Article II, Section 5 with the express language found in the Preamble of the Oklahoma Constitution. The Preamble explicitly calls upon “the guidance of Almighty God” to help the people of Oklahoma establish a free, just, and beneficial government. This is a direct, active statement of theological principle, one that even perhaps could be characterized as a prayer, enshrined at the very start of the fundamental charter of Oklahoma. It was drafted and adopted by the same convention responsible for Article II, Section 5. Yet this same charter is now read to prohibit the state from passive acknowledgment of the Ten Commandments. Constitutions are to be read as a whole. While preambles are declaratory in nature and not usually prescriptive, the Preamble of the Oklahoma Constitution expresses the intent of those who drafted and ratified the constitution Would it now similarly be unconstitutional to set up a public monument that simply quoted the Preamble to the Oklahoma Constitution?

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