10 Commandments’ Future Remains Unclear

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24176535_SAThe future of a controversial Oklahoma monument continues to be debated. Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze sponsored a bill in 2009 to have a 10 commandments display installed on the State Capitol’s grounds. His family privately funded the memorial, which was finally erected in November of 2012.

Rep. Mike Ritze speaks about newly installed 10 commandments monument

Despite Oklahoma being firmly in the Bible belt, the display has received numerous complaints. Organizations like American Civil Liberties Union and American Atheists have filed lawsuits in response to the placement of the memorial. The ACLU states in their petition they, “declare the placement of the Ten Commandments Monument to be in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution, and as such, an illegal appropriation of public property in support of religion.”

ACLU files suit to remove 10 commandments monument

In addition, various religious organizations have sought equality by having monuments erected representing their beliefs. A New York Satanist group known as the Satanic Temple has crowd funded and lobbied for their own statue to be installed. Similarly, the Universal Society of Hinduism applied for the installment of a Hindu god monument.

Satanist group unveils design for Oklahoma State capitol monument

Hindu organization applies for memorial to be built Oklahoma State capitol grounds

The controversy over the 10 commandments and religious monuments has sparked discussion over the separation of faith and the State. An Oklahoma district judge dismissed the ACLU’s lawsuit that the display was unconstitutional. The ACLU disagrees with the ruling. The organization is now taking their appeal to Oklahoma’s Supreme Court.

While the debate surrounding the 10 commandments monument still stands, the statue does not. Last month, the memorial was dramatically destroyed in a bizarre act of vandalism.

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Churches offer family friendly Halloween activities

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It was Halloween night and hundreds of families were going to church. Scores of princesses, superheroes, and even an Ebola victim lined up for candy and games. Dressed as Superman, I passed out Bibles next to a plinko board, one of several fair games setup. These children were skipping traditional trick-or-treating to, instead, visit Trunk-or-Treat.

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Photo by Sarah Draper

Halloween at Edmond First Baptist Church was a unique contrast to the activities I remember of my youth. I recall memories of shuffling along poor lit neighborhoods, knocking on strangers’ doors, and always being slightly scared of what might happen. The news never made it any easier. Leading up to Halloween, I would hear reports of poisoned candy, child abductions, and other terrifying crimes. EFBC’s Trunk-or-Treat was the celebration I wished I had when I was younger. It was safe, well lit, and had more candy than a kid could hope for.

Greeting each child at the plinko game, Jeremy Duffle helped orchestrate Trunk-or-Treat. While this was his first time at the event, Jeremy heard of the growing trend among churches to provide a trick-or-treat alternative, “A lot of churches are offering this now as kind of a safe haven to bring their families and their kids in, to basically bypass the strange neighborhood or scary dark corner aspect of trick-or-treating.”

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Photo by Sarah Draper

EFBC was certainly not alone in providing family friendly Fall events. Houses of worship across the country are reaching out to neighborhoods with fall festivals and Halloween night activities. In the Oklahoma City Metro, many churches opened themselves up to their communities.

  • Douglas Boulevard United Methodist Church hosted its own Trunk-or-Treat.
  • Putnam City Baptist Church sponsored FestiFall, a similar event with games and candy.
  • Mayfair Heights United Methodist Church held a Fall Festival featuring a craft show and bake sell. 

(Source: NewsOK)

“What it’s doing is it’s giving our people, the people of this church, an avenue to reach out to those that they would never come in contact with before. It gave us a blank canvas to reach a lot of different people and in a very safe setting,” Jeremy said.

Safety is a major concern for many during Halloween night. Unfortunately, this Halloween saw the tragic deaths and injuries of children across the country. One incident in California led to the death of three teenage girls when struck by an SUV (Source: ABC). Another vehicular accident in California left a father dead and his son injured (Source: LA Times).

At EFBC’s Trunk or Treat, there were no fast moving cars. Police were present. Dozens of caring volunteers kept watch. Children orderly went from activity to activity. I observed hundreds of families attending. They were enjoying themselves and carefree. They were happy and safe. Jeremy agrees, “I think it went really well. We had a huge turnout.”

Trick-or-treating remains as traditional to Halloween as Jack-O-Lanterns and candy apples. However, churches are finding new ways to give families a safe atmosphere for costumed fun. Trunk-or-Treat and other Fall festivals are relevant ways for churches to give back to the communities they are in. The compassion of churches opening their doors will ripple throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, giving further opportunities to touch lives. As I watched children walking away with candy and a new Bible, I sensed that this small blessing of loving thy neighbor could have a tremendous impact in each child’s life.

 

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Sources:

Duffle, Jeremy. Personal Interview. November 2nd, 2014

Staff Reports. (2014, Oct. 25). Oklahoma City-area churches offer festivals and other fall activities. Retrieved November 2nd, 2014 from http://newsok.com/oklahoma-city-area-churches-offer-festivals-and-other-fall-activities/article/5359417

Pierce, Harold. (2014, Nov. 4). Halloween crash victim was Irvine lawyer, devoted father. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://www.latimes.com/local/orangecounty/la-me-11-05-irvine-halloween-20141105-story.html 

Dillon, Raquel Maria. (2014, Nov. 4). Man charged in Hit-Run Halloween Deaths of 3 Teens. Retrieved November 4th, 2014 from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/girls-13-killed-halloween-mourned-family-26670726