Rapert’s 10 Commandments Monument is Erected — Will it Stay Up?

Rapert’s 10 Commandments Monument is Erected — Will it Stay Up? April 27, 2018

The Arkansas State Capital 10 commandments monument was re-dedicated this morning and Lucien Greaves was on hand to watch our good friend State Senator Stanley J Rapert apparently use his dedication speech to try and litigate his case for the monument in the court of public opinion. You can watch the full video from Greaves Facebook Live video of the dedication below:

Well, if he wants to make his case in the press …

One thing you have to give to Rapert is the consistency of his argument, which he’s made very plain lots of times in public if you’re a muckraking investigative hack like yours truly. Here’s S.J. Rapert and pastor Scott Stewart on a Arkansas based youtube network (back in the day we’d call this a public access show, but that’s technology for you).

Most people have never watched this video. At the time of my writing it had a whopping 117 views (and about a dozen of those were me re-finding the link). It’s interesting though, because you can clearly see what Rapert and his pals are up to.

The strategy seems to be that Rapert just sticks to his talking points about it being a historical monument. Then he’ll appear along side a pastor or the guy who made the ‘God’s not Dead’ movies and they’re the ones that start talking about god and religion. This keeps him a hair’s breadth away from actually admitting that his purposes are religiously motivated in public by having proxy speakers.

However …

Like all good skeptics we need to take the dude at his word and ignore the ancillary comments of his friends and sycophants. So let’s break down the arguments that Rapert appears to be making.

Lucien Greaves and Stanley “Jason” Rapert at Thursday’s monument dedication. Image Credit: Screenshot via Facebook

Rapert Claims the Arkansas Monument is Legal Because It’s Privately Funded

That’s … a weaselly argument at best. In the Oklahoma monument case the construction of the monument was privately funded too, but the OK State Supreme Court ruled that under the Oklahoma state constitution the government couldn’t use money OR property to benefit any religion, so it was moved to private property. Arkansas has tried to avoid this by saying that the maintenance costs of the statue are also the responsibility of the donor, but that does nothing to address the religiosity of the statue. In Arkansas, the state constitution says “no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other” which, assuming either the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or The Satanic Temple (TST) can successfully argue that the monument is religious could be a big problem for Rapert.

Rapert Claims that the 10 Commandments Monument Isn’t a Religious Monument, but a Secular Recognition of the Pentateuch’s Significance to History of Common Law

This really should be a big problem for Rapert seeing as his lip-service to the statue being a monument to the historical foundations of common law are pretty flimsy compared to, if not his own admissions in newsletters to contributors, then the actual history of common law.

Rapert has also readily admitted his religious motives before on many occasions while preaching to religious congregations saying things like how he doesn’t believe that his job as a Senator is to respect the will of his constituents:

“I just decided, there’s only one vote that matters in my life. Unfortunately it’s not the 83-85 thousand people in my district. There’s only one vote that matters. And that’s when I stand before the lord at that judgement scene. And I decided it’s more important to do what is right by god.” – source

In addition, there’s a real question about whether the adoption of the 10 commandments monument along with efforts to deny TST’s Baphomet monument constitute State discrimination. I’ll let Lucien Greaves explain that part with this clip from yesterday’s event.

Other Places have 10 Commandment Monuments

Ok, this one isn’t quite so simple. Rapert likes to point to similar monuments like the ones in Texas or Phoenix, AZ. The problem is case law doesn’t really back up his claim from what I can tell. See, in the Texas case they were allowed to keep the monument because it had been there for 40 years and was ruled historical in and of itself. Basically, no one complained for ages so now the statue, not it’s content, is a symbol of the 20th century history of the area. We can quibble about whether that’s an appeal to tradition fallacy but it doesn’t change the court’s ruling. In Phoenix, the situation is entirely different because the monument is in a monument park along with other monuments dedicated to other groups like a Jewish War Veterans Memorial, a Navajo Codetalkers Memorial, an Armenian Martyrs Memorial, a Confederate Troops Memorial, and a Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. The Phoenix Monument is surrounded by a diverse and pluralistic set of other monuments which makes for much different legal footing.

The Law Allowing the Monument Says It Isn’t Religious

When the Arkansas legislature voted to approve the monument the bill directly stated that the placement of the Ten Commandments at the Capitol was not to be “construed to mean the state of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over another”. That’s all well and good until such time as another monument tried to seek approval on the same grounds. Remember, TST only seeks to put the Baphoment monument where other religiously inspired monuments exist. It’s not intended to be a stand alone endorsement of Satanism, but a symbol of plurality when taken in context with other monuments in the same space. As Greaves stated in a TST newsletter Wednesday ahead of the dedication ceremony:

“… if the bill itself couldn’t be construed as religious favoritism, the state’s rejection of other religious viewpoints certainly is. Further destroying the state’s already untenably difficult defense of the monument, Rapert has taken to local pulpits declaring the United States a ‘Christian Nation,’ openly discussing his agenda to bring his religion alone to the public square, to the exclusion of all others. Arkansas’s state constitution holds that ‘no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other.’ Rapert’s misconstrual of law goes beyond mere incompetence, his manipulation of truth beyond mere misinformation, his abuse of his office beyond mere misconduct. I would posit that his bald efforts to undermine, ignore, and utterly diminish the constitution he swore to uphold, abusing his office to illegally impose his religious viewpoint, is tantamount to treason. Rapert has so loudly declared his unconstitutional agenda so often that he’s destroyed any credible legal defense of his efforts.”

So What Happens Now?

The path forward is that the ACLU is going to sue Arkansas, possibly along with other groups to dispute the constitutionality of the monument. Then TST will file as an ‘intervenor,’ merging all the cases into one case. To win that case, Arkansas will both have to counter the ACLU’s argument that the monument is a religious endorsement, and TST’s claim that they were denied access to the public forum on religious grounds. Despite Rapert’s projected confidence, that argument seems like a very hard sell to me.

About Jack Matirko
Jack Matirko is an activist, blogger, and podcaster focussing on issues of church and state separation. He runs Patheos.com's Satanic Blog For Infernal Use Only, co-hosts the Naked Diner Podcast, and is a member of The Satanic Temple-Arizona Chapter. His opinions are his own. To contribute to his work please consider becoming a patron of his podcast. You can read more about the author here.
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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Michael Neville

    Rapert is just another Christian trying to mark his territory like a dog pissing on a tree. He’ll have a hard time convincing a court otherwise.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    That monument aint religious in the same way that pornhub aint about sex. I don’t know which is worse, the asshole who ‘prays’ that people will support him in in evengelical drive to say fuck you to the constitution, or the idiots that actually support him. I looked at his page. This is a goverment official who is a textbook case for a theocrat.

  • Jim Jones

    > I don’t know which is worse . . .

    The idiots that actually support him

  • Adrinna Mrs.Chacon

    christians are a dying breed,they’re so low on the poll of any type of education they’re not even worth arguing with.all they have is each other.

  • ROBERT

    Anti-constitutionalists pieces of shit. I hear Saudi Arabia has the theocracy you want so badly, Religion is the worse plague to ever infest this world and needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. All religions. Religion, Food for the imbecile.

  • rationalobservations?

    Whenever the “10 commandments” is mentioned I am reminded of this most obvious interpretation of the first four:

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/By_xgYcCUAA2h5D.jpg

  • Flint8ball

    Obviously unconstitutional. Sucks that we have to waste time and money to get this removed.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    The monument doesn’t have the ten commandments on it.

    It DOES have 10 commandments ( there are 613 commandments in the old testament), but they are not the ones the Bible calls the ten commandments.

    These are the ones the Bible ( Exodus 34:14-28) calls the ten commandments:

    Thou shalt worship no other god.
    Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
    The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep.
    Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day rest.
    Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks.
    Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord God.
    Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven.
    Neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left until the morning.
    The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
    Thou shalt not seeth a kid in his mother’s milk.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    And is marking it with the wrong list ( those aren’t the ones the Bible calls the ten commandments) and with Hebrew laws.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    I keep hearing people claim the US is a Christian nation.

    Why do so many Christians want to erect monuments listing Hebrew laws?

  • Keith Taylor

    It’s worth a mention that the Ten Commandments — that is, the arbitrary rules most of us think about when we hear the phrase — are completely and diametrically opposed to the United States Constitution. The first commandment orders us to worship one god and one god only. The Constitution (Article 6) states flatly ” … no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” and the First Amendment underwrites that with “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” We might think that would be plain enough for anybody, but in even plainer English, it means, “No religion shall be official or compulsory in this country, and no religion shall be forbidden, either.”
    Second, third and fourth commandments forbid graven images, disrespecting the name of God, and working on the sabbath day. If their order is significant, it would seem that these are regarded as more important than the command against committing murder, because that’s only number six. In any case, they are not crimes in American law and they shouldn’t be. (Sabbath-breaking and cursing the name of God were both capital crimes among the ancient Hebrews.)
    Those familiar commandments are the ones that appear in Exodus 20. But when Moses came down the mountain and found his people worshipping the golden calf, he smashed the stone tablets in a rage before ordering the Levites to slaughter the idolaters. (“Today you have consecrated yourselves as priests in the service of the LORD by killing your sons and brothers, so the LORD has given you his blessing.” Exodus 32:29) He is supposed to have ascended the holy mountain again to receive new tablets of the law from the almighty. Exodus 34 says they enshrined the same laws as before — but in fact they are quite different as the chapter enumerates them.
    1. Do not make treaties with the heathen tries around you, but destroy their altars and sacred groves.
    2. Do not worship any gods but me.
    3. Do not fashion idols of metal.
    4. Keep the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
    5. Dedicate every first-born son and first-born animal to me, the lord God.
    6. Do not work on the Sabbath day.
    7. Keep the Harvest Festival and the Festival of Shelters.
    8. Gather to worship me three times a year, all the men, and don’t worry about being attacked because no-one will try to conquer you while you’re worshipping. (Actually, I’ll bet their tribal enemies did.)
    9. Do not offer me leavened bread with a sacrifice, or keep any part of an animal sacrificed at Passover until the next day, and bring me, the lord God, each year the first grain that you harvest.
    10. Do not boil a young sheep or goat in its mother’s milk.
    Everybody’s favourite commandments against murder, theft, adultery and committing perjury, don’t even appear in this lot.
    So the next time someone tells you in holy fervour that the Ten Commandments ought to be the law of the land, ask him which ten.

  • I’ve always wondered what kind of recipe requires boiling lamb in goats milk re: this list … I cannot for the life of me think of any way that would taste good except for maybe some sort of lamb sausage gravy for biscuits

  • Keith Taylor

    I understand that strictly orthodox Jews don’t cook or serve ANY kind of dairy food with ANY kind of meat, because of that commandment, and even keep a separate set of kitchen utensils for meat and another for milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, etcetera …

  • Yeah, they know not the joy of cheeseburgers