Satanic monument, monkey god may join Ten Commandments in Oklahoma

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma's decision to allow a Christian monument on its state Capitol lawn has opened the door to almost any other religious display, legal experts said, as Satanists and Hindus look to place their own statues at the site.

A Satanist group has petitioned to have its monument, with an interactive display for children, put up alongside the Ten Commandments. And this week, the Hindu organization applied to have a monkey god statue placed on the Capitol grounds.

Socially conservative Christian groups fought for years to have the Ten Commandants displayed at the statehouse, and the monument went up in 2012.

Legislative approval was granted to the Christian groups, who were using private funds to commemorate a historical event and said they were not in violation of constitutional restrictions on the state sponsoring religion.

"The problem is that when the legislature allowed the Ten Commandments to be put up, they knew they were opening a Pandora's Box," said Oklahoma City lawyer David Slane.

"If the state does not allow the other monuments, then it's in violation of the Equal Protection Clause," Slane said.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Oklahoma warned lawmakers before the Ten Commandants went up that by allowing one religious group to have its say at that location, others would follow.

"We opposed this because it shouldn't be the business of the state government to make decisions on how appropriate people's religions are," said Brady Henderson, legal analyst for the Oklahoma ACLU.

Oklahoma lawmakers are trying to block the influx of monuments, saying they run against public opinion in the heavily Christian state.

"This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state," state Rep. Earl Sears told the Tulsa World.

"I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation," the Republican lawmaker said in a story published on Tuesday.

Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon's spokesman Joe Griffin told Reuters the Capitol was not an appropriate place for monuments such as the one proposed by the Satanists.

"The left-hand path philosophies of this organization do not align with the values of Oklahomans, nor the ideals this country or its laws are founded upon," Griffin said.

(Editing by Jon Herskovitz)

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