The Freedom From Religion Foundation, along with the American Humanist Association, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, and several individual Arkansas residents have filed a Lawsuit against Arkansas’ Secretary of State over the state’s now re-installed 10 Commandments monument on Arkansas State Capitol grounds.
The ACLU also separately filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of four Arkansas residents in what amounts to separate paperwork on the same issue.
Flagrant Establishment Clause Issues
The suit as filed minces no words over how egregious the plaintiffs find the monument, calling it “an enormous religious monolith”, a description which probably doesn’t have much to do with legality but it does a great job of portraying the sense of oppression that is felt by non-christians who encounter such government endorsement. It evokes a sense of the structure casting a shadow of dominionism over the state of Arkansas. That imagery is a bit poetic for a legal filing but certainly an appropriate to the plaintiffs’ complaint.
“The State of Arkansas has erected an enormous religious monolith on government property in blatant disregard for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The new monolith — a six and one-third foot tall Ten Commandments statue — stands prominently on the State Capitol grounds. Civil rights and secular organizations, as well as local citizens, challenge this symbol because it violates their First Amendment rights.” – 10 Commandments Complaint
The Satanic Temple’s Legal Filings Imminent
At the moment The Satanic Temple (TST) has yet to enter the fray, but my understanding is that they will be filing as intervenor in the suit to add their complaint over the rejection of TST’s Baphomet monument.
That will leave Arkansas in a sticky situation where it seems like on one hand they’ll be arguing that the monument is not exclusive because the state has rules that allow other groups to petition to have their own monuments added to the capitol grounds. But at the same time they’ll need to to defend the changing of those same rules to expressly exclude a minority religion’s monument.
Just about everyone has decided that the Liberty Institute will probably be offering their legal services to the defense. It will be interesting to see how they try to construct an argument that claims the 10 Commandments is both somehow not a religious monument (an argument that I’ve already said sounds pretty weak to me), while also claiming that removing the monument would somehow be a violation of the American Heritage and History Foundation’s (AHHF) religious liberty. I don’t know what kind of Schrödingeresque reasoning they plan to use to demonstrate that the 10 Commandments are both religious and not-religious at the same time, but it will be fun to watch them tie themselves into knots trying.
Rapert Tries to Frame the Debate as ‘War’
If you’ve been following this story then you’re no stranger to Arkansas State Senator Stanley “Jason” Rapert’s use of weaselly arguments that really make you wonder how freedom of expression applies to talking out both sides of your mouth. But his response to the lawsuits reaches new heights of hyperbole. In a post on the AHHF facebook pageRapert refers to the FFRF, ACLU, and other plaintiffs as “several anti-American organizations”before making an appeal to popular opinion fallacy and … frankly being kind of dishonest.
“The sole reason we donated this monument to the State of Arkansas is because the Ten Commandments are an important component to the foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas,” said Senator Jason Rapert
“The sole reason”? Really Jason? Is that why you use the monument in the advertising for your evangelical ministry? Do you think the separation of church and state is just based on which checking account you deposit the money into?
Rapert has done a lot of verbal gymnastics to attempt to justify the alleged secular purpose of the monument, but his actions seem to betray that line of reasoning. It’s as if he seems to say ‘as a private citizen I believe it’s a monument to god, but as a Senator I believe it’s not’. So by way of a compliment I would like to applaud him for taking cognitive dissonance to such an extreme.