OKLAHOMA CITY — A Hindu organization in Reno, Nevada has announced its intent to apply for permission to erect a statue of the Hindu monkey king Hanuman next to a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma City.
The announcement comes just days after a Satanist organization also made known its offer to erect a public ‘homage to Satan’ near the monument, which sits on the premises of the Oklahoma capitol building.
As previously reported, the monument at issue was proposed and paid for in 2009 by Republican Representative Mike Ritze, and was soon after approved by the largely Republican-run state legislature.
“[T]he Ten Commandments are an important component of the foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Oklahoma,” the bill authorizing the monument acknowledged. “[T]he courts of the United States of America and of various states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions, and acknowledgements of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation’s heritage are common throughout America.”
The six-foot display was erected last year, but the ACLU said that the monument was unconstitutional.
“The monument’s placement at the Capitol has created a more divisive and hostile state for many Oklahomans,” stated Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of ACLU of Oklahoma, in a news release. “When the government literally puts one faith on a pedestal, it sends a strong message to Oklahomans of other faiths that they are less than equal.”
This past August, the organization filed suit against the monument, with the lead plaintiff being minister Bruce Prescott, the director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists. Prescott said that mixing the sacred with the secular in such a manner cheapens the display, and asserted that it violated the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
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Last week, the New-York based Satanic Temple announced that it has offered to to donate a public monument to be placed near the Ten Commandments display in order to “appease the ACLU’s concerns.” It said that if Oklahoma’s Capitol Preservation Commission grants the request, it will then seek public input for the text and design on the proposed “homage to Satan.”
Now, the Universalist Society of Hinduism has also issued a news release, outlining its intent to request permission to place a statue of the Hindu monkey king Hanuman near the Ten Commandments monument.
“[I]f the Oklahoma State Capitol was open to different monuments, we would love to have a statue of Lord Hanuman, who was greatly revered and worshipped and known for incredible strength and was perfect grammarian,” president Rajan Zed stated in the release.
“[B]esides honoring the Hindus living in Oklahoma, this statue would raise awareness of Oklahomans about Hinduism, [the] oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought,” he added.
Commission Chairman Trait Thompson told Tulsa World that he is unsure how the situation will all pan out, but believes that the groups are attempting to make a statement more than anything.
“I suppose when one group gets some publicity, everyone else wants to make their point,” he said.
Photo: N. Aditya Madhav