Religion & the State
State Question 790 addresses public funding and property use regarding the separation of church and state. It is a proposal to repeal a section of the state’s constitution. If the measure is approved, Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution would be repealed. By removing this section, public expenditure or property use for religious purposes would not be explicitly prohibited.
Under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Under the Oklahoma Constitution’s Article 2, Section 5, state money or property cannot be used directly or indirectly to support a church, sect, denomination, or system of religion.
This state question is a response to recent controversy over display of the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol. In 2009, the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act was passed by the state legislature and, three years later, a privately donated Ten Commandments monument was erected on the grounds of the State Capitol. Lawsuits followed, and by June 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the monument’s placement on state property was unconstitutional, ordering that it be removed. The basis for the court’s decision was Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma State Constitution. In October 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin called on the legislature to repeal that section of the state constitution in order to allow the monument at the State Capitol.
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PROPONENTS SAY: YES
- The Oklahoma Supreme Court’s interpretation of Article 2, Section 5 in the Ten Commandments case “can potentially make our state hostile to religion and have damaging impacts on our counties, cities, and school districts.”
- Religious liberty should allow the placement of the monument on the grounds of the State Capitol.
- If approved, the repeal would remove an obstacle to the state allowing religious institutions to participate in public programs on an equal basis with non-religious institutions.
OPPONENTS SAY: NO
- Passage of SQ 790 would open the state to expensive federal lawsuits that the Oklahoma Attorney General would have to defend at the expense of Oklahoma taxpayers.
- Passage of SQ 790 would affect many areas of religious freedom, including state money and property being appropriated for specific religious purposes, including religion-based schools or activities.
- The state could be faced with proposals from other religions and religious groups to place their own monuments on public property or grounds, leading to difficult and divisive decisions and lawsuits.
This measure would remove Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the government from using public money or property for the direct or indirect benefit of any religion or religious institution. Article 2, Section 5 has been interpreted by the Oklahoma courts as requiring the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the grounds of the State Capitol. If this measure repealing Article 2, Section 5 is passed, the government would still be required to comply with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution,which is a similar constitutional pro-vision that prevents the government from endorsing a religion or becoming overly involved with religion.