The co-author of a new state law calling for the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the lawn of the state Capitol says he has chosen a local contractor to create the monument while discussions continue about where it will be located.
State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, said he has an agreement in place with Tulsan Gary Mosier to create the granite monument. Ritze, a doctor, said he was referred to Mosier by a patient, who is a cemetery owner.
Ritze hopes to have a decision made soon about the monument's location, though he said he has no agreement with Mosier on a delivery date for the monument.
"There's no deadline," he said. "We won't put anything in concrete form until we satisfy the site issue."
The law authorizing the monument's creation goes into effect Nov. 1.
Ritze said he met Sept. 9 with John Richard, the director of the state Department of Central Services and a member of the Capitol Preservation Commission, as well as a commission engineer, and several other commission staff members and state legislators. That group has chosen three sites for consideration for the monument, two on the south side of the Capitol and one on the north side.
The location on the north side would be adjacent to a monument memorializing the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, he said. Another proposed site is in the southeast corner of the Capitol lawn, while the third location, also on the south side, would provide the easiest access for visitors, he said.
Ritze said the CPC board will meet again in October, and a decision about where to locate the monument could be made then. He said members of the Capitol Preservation Commission, which oversees the preservation and restoration of the Capitol's interior and exterior, provide input on the location, but the decision ultimately will come down to himself and the bill's other author, state Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso.
Ritze said he hopes to keep the cost of the monument to less than $10,000. His family is covering the cost.
"That was our original estimate, although that could go up with unforeseen costs like pouring concrete around the display," he said.
Ritze said it is his intention for the new monument to mirror a Ten Commandments monument, which is located on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin, as closely as possible; although, a Texas state seal will be replaced with an Oklahoma state seal. Previously, he has said that he expects it to be 6 feet high.
Ritze originally had hoped to use an older, existing Ten Commandments monument for the display and had several conversations with officials from the Fraternal Order of Eagles on that subject. That organization, along with Hollywood filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, donated thousands of these monuments to entities around the country a half century ago after the release of DeMille's film The Ten Commandments, which starred Charlton Heston.
One of those monuments wound up next to dozens of other monuments and historical displays on the lawn of the Texas Capitol, finally drawing a court challenge in 2002. The lawsuit eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the plaintiff, allowing the monument to remain in place. Ritze has said many times his legislation was patterned after the Texas monument, and he believes it will survive any court challenge it may face.
Ritze said despite his best efforts, he was unable to locate any of the FOE monuments.
"I can't find one, so we'll just pay for a new one," he said. "The closest I could come to one was I talked to several FOE people at the national headquarters and state level, and they said one had been donated in Oklahoma that wasn't being used, but they don't know where it is."
Ritze declined to venture a guess about when the monument might be put in place.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma have said they are unlikely to make a decision about whether to challenge the monument until that time.
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