Arkansas Ten Commandment Monument Fight Looms

Arkansas Ten Commandment Monument Fight Looms April 21, 2018

On Thursday, Arkansas State Senator Stanley “Jason” Rapert (R-Conway) announced the re-installation of the Arkansas State Capitol 10 Commandments monument will take place next week, setting off a flurry of activity among groups like the ACLU and The Satanic Temple (TST), which have both threatened legal action since the monument’s initial approval.

As you may remember the original monument was, rather ceremoniously, destroyed by an avowed Christian named Michael Tate Reed in June of last year within hours of the statue’s unveiling.

The Monument’s Destruction Put Legal Actions on Hold

The destruction of the monument by Mr. Reed stymied plans by organizations like the ACLU and TST to file lawsuits regarding the monument because it presented an issue over whether or not people have legal standing to object to a statue that isn’t physically standing. So everyone involved decided their best course of action was to wait for the monument’s replacement to be erected before the lawyers would start lawyering.

In the meantime, Rapert’s GoFundMe for repairs … sorry I meant the American History and Heritage Foundation’s GoFundMe (the foundation is not, technically, Mr. Rapert even though it shares a Post Office box with his election campaigns and his Christian Ministry and there’s nothing remotely questionable about that at all apparently) raised plenty of money to replace the statue including large sums from religious organizations like Agape Church (which donated at least $5,500) and and the producers of painstakingly crafted dramatizations of hastily constructed strawman arguments … sorry again, I meant the producers of the “God’s Not Dead” film franchise (who donated $25,000).

It looks like all that money (a grand total of just over $85k at the time of this writing) will be put to good use on legal defense very soon. What’s interesting is that the fate of the monument rests on defeating two very different legal challenges.

The ACLU and TST Legal Strategies are Entirely Different

The ACLU lawsuit will, most likely, claim that any religious monument is by it’s nature exclusionary to citizens who are not a member of that religion and has no business being on government property. The TST claim, is different in that they don’t ask for the 10 Commandments monument to be removed, just that if religious monuments are allowed that their Baphomet monument be included as well. TST’s case is interesting because they were already in the process of seeking approval for the monument when the Arkansas legislature changed the rules regarding how monuments get approved in what certainly appears to be a blatant attempt to exclude TST’s monument from consideration.

Baphomet
Image Credit: The Satanic Temple

State Senator Rapert, however, seems to be relying on the notion that (somehow) the biblical ten commandments are not religious and instead a monument to “the historical foundations of law” … which anyone who ever paid attention in High School civics should be upset about because …

The 10 Commandments Don’t Have Anything to Do with American Law

It shouldn’t be my job to tell you that when it comes to the history of when people started writing down lists of things you shouldn’t do and prescribing punishments for people who do those things the right answer is The Code of Ur-Nammu, which any historian who isn’t just blatantly making things up has to admit predates the 10 Commandments by around 800 years. It also has the added benefit of the actual cuneiform tablets actually being on display at a museum in Turkey while no such remnants of the original Mosaic law tablets have ever been found.

So let’s dispense with this idea that the introduction of these biblical precepts were by any means an innovation in how society dealt with people doing bad things to each other. Rapert’s … sorry again, The American History and Heritage Foundation’s position is that they are not presented in a religious context but instead an homage to the tradition of common law (and only paid for by Christian propagandists and churches). Even given that … of the 10 commandments there are, at best, 3 that have anything to do with actual crimes (murder, theft, and perjury). Of the remaining seven, five are just an alleged deity demanding subservience to arbitrary hierarchy, one has to do with what people do in private, and the last one is an outright condemnation of thought-crime.

That last one, by the way, is about how you shouldn’t want your neighbor’s stuff … and last I checked isn’t wanting cool stuff because you saw someone else with it the entire basis of capitalism? So how is any of this symbolic of America? Your guess is as good as mine.

So, the monument is expected to be put back up at the Arkansas Capital Building on April 26th, and I would expect to see lawsuits filed not long after.


Browse Our Archives