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story.lead_photo.caption President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, left, listens as Gov. Asa Hutchinson (right) calls for changes to House Bill 1228 at a news conference at the state Capitol in Little Rock in this file photo. - Photo by Stephen B. Thornton

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law Wednesday legislation requiring the secretary of state to arrange for a privately funded Ten Commandments monument to be placed on the Capitol grounds in Little Rock, Hutchinson spokesman J.R. Davis said.

Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow walks to the Senate at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
In this April 6, 2011, file photo Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, left, speaks at a meeting of the Arkansas Board of Apportionment at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Martin on Friday, June 17, 2011.
Rita Sklar, executive director if the ACLU of Arkansas, speaks at a news conference in front of the Pulaski County Court House in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

Senate Bill 939 was introduced by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, on March 9 and zipped through the Republican-dominated Legislature in about three weeks. The Senate voted 27-3 to approve it on March 25 and the House voted 72-7 to send it to the governor on April 1.

It states that the “placing of a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol would help the people of the United States and of the state of Arkansas to know the Ten Commandments as the moral foundation of the law.”

The measure requires the secretary of state to permit and arrange for the monument to be designed, constructed and paid for by private entities at no expense to the state. Similar monuments have been constructed in Oklahoma and Texas.

Rapert said he appreciates Hutchinson, a Republican, for signing his bill into law.

He said he expects a private entity to be formed soon to raise money to construct and maintain the monument, but he’s not sure how much it will cost.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, Laura Labay, said “we have no estimate or guesstimate at this point.”

Rapert said he’ll also work with Martin, a Republican, who is required to approve the design and site selection for the monument.

If the constitutionality of the monument is challenged in court, the attorney general may prepare or present a legal defense of the monument or request the Liberty Institute to prepare and present a legal defense, according to the measure. Rapert said the Liberty Institute has agreed to defend the state for free if asked to do so.

The Liberty Institute is the “largest legal organization in America dedicated solely to defending and preserving religious liberty in America,” according to its website.

“The placement of the monument … shall not be construed to mean that the state of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others,” the measure states.

But Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the civil-liberties group is going to look at filing a legal challenge to the monument because “we think it’s a religious document and to say otherwise is disingenuous.

“It’s divisive and excludes both people of non-Abrahamic faiths and no faith from feeling” that they are welcome in Arkansas, she said.

Rapert countered that the ACLU “has no moral authority” to speak about the Ten Commandments from a religious perspective.

In addition, he said the group is “highly antagonistic about anything [it opposes],” noting the group has already filed a challenge to the state’s new lethal-injection law.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, in a 5-4 ruling, the constitutionality of the Texas Ten Commandments display. Similar displays in Kentucky, far newer than the Texas monument, were struck down.

A lawsuit challenging a similar monument at the Oklahoma Capitol is pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, after a county judge said the monument could stay. That lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma.

Print Headline: Law inked for rules from Bible


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  • WGT
    April 9, 2015 at 6:34 a.m.

    No. Mr. Rapert is wrong. There is no moral authority in the bible, nor any religious tome. This should not go forth. It is, at all levels, promoting christianity, which is against the Federal law.

  • Medievalark
    April 9, 2015 at 6:36 a.m.

    Which version of the Ten Commandments is the state of Arkansas mandating? The Catholic, the Lutheran, the Baptist or some other version?

  • 23cal
    April 9, 2015 at 6:42 a.m.

    Stupid pissing away of taxpayer dollars. I am so disgusted with the religious fanatics who are determined to use MY government as a proselytization arm of THEIR preferred religion. Too bad they have nothing better to do than to stir up unnecessary controversy and divisiveness.
    Their contempt for the established jurisprudence of the Constitutional separation of church and state is reprehensible.

  • mrkohl
    April 9, 2015 at 7:40 a.m.

    Very dangerous! Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. The State should not be involved in that at all!

  • Farmeng
    April 9, 2015 at 8:11 a.m.

    Save space for all the other monuments that will follow

  • TheGoodGuy
    April 9, 2015 at 8:23 a.m.

    So much for the separation of church and state, huh?? This is such a crock of crap from the get go. Rapert needs to stop thumping that danged book so much and get some real insight on what really needs to get done (taking care of the residents of the state) instead of wasting time and money on things that are completely beyond reasonable need (the monument) and offensive to people of other or no religions. I really wish people would stop this religious BS and focus on real things. We have enough fictional materials floating around that we don't need to uphold something that is complete malarkey from millennia ago. You know, it is stuff like this that makes me wish there really were one deity as these people profess and that that deity comes down and smacks the crap out of them telling them they are all wrong. LOL I mean, who the heck do these people think they are telling you that if you don't believe in their god, you aren't a real person and don't deserve things they do. "He can be a man because he doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me." You wanna see bigots and hate mongers and people that spread the very things they preach about? Look at southern baptists. They are THE prime example of it. How can they waste so much time worshiping crap that is so full of contradictory statements??? They are just weak minded individuals that HAVE to have something to prop themselves up with like a crutch. We have all forms of sin in our legislature, but then again it is only a sin if they want it to be. It's funny how these religious nutbags pick and choose what they will believe in from their own fairy tale book. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go pray to the flying spaghetti monster, the ruling king of Omicron Persei 8, and my neighbors dog for their all knowing and all forgiving approval of my licking my own palms.

  • onlyGodmatters
    April 9, 2015 at 8:39 a.m.

    Quote from Rapert: "He said he expects a private entity TO BE FORMED SOON to raise money to construct and maintain the monument, but he’s not sure how much it will cost."
    I'm sure he will be the founder or a partner in the business that will be constructing, erecting, and maintaining the monument.
    I prefer the final two commandments, "Put no other gods before me." and "Love thy neighbor as thyself." These cover the original 10 commandments. Contrary to popular belief, Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a relationship with Jesus the Christ. Since Jesus died for our sins, salvation (going to heaven) is free for all who accept Jesus as their savior. Even if you get into a predicament and violate one of the 10 commandments, you still have salvation. Punishment for sin is dealt with separately from salvation. Once saved, always saved. After you've accepted Jesus as your savior, you only have to worry about being punished for committing sins; you don't have to worry about losing your salvation (whether your sin be fornication, homosexuality, or murder).
    I choke on the fact that Rapert designed this bill merely as a means to get his fingers on private donations to the state. Donations, which could be put to better use. A BETTER route to take would be to take bids from locally owned, currently existing monument builders. And the BEST route to take would be for Rapert and his supporters to build the monument out of their own pockets. Then again, that's too much like the right thing to do, when they aren't concerned about right; they're concerned about making a money.

  • onlyGodmatters
    April 9, 2015 at 8:41 a.m.

    Hutchinson will likely be a partner in the company being created as well. Lord help us.
    I didn't vote for any of these people.

  • Nodmcm
    April 9, 2015 at 9:10 a.m.

    C'mon, what about the Code of Hammurabi? Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world of folks who know that Hammurabi, a Babylonian king, created the first known codified law, 300 years before Moses and the Ten Commandments? There are some who say Moses used the Code of Hammurabi to come up with the Ten Commandments, since they are so similar and since the Code of Hammurabi predates the Ten Commandments by several hundred years. In any event, why not celebrate the first known codified law by putting the Code of Hammurabi on a big rock outside the state capitol building?

  • 3WorldState1
    April 9, 2015 at 9:17 a.m.

    "The measure requires the secretary of state to permit and arrange for the monument to be designed, constructed and paid for by private entities at no expense to the state."
    So how does mandating state workers to permit and arrange the design and construction of this statue not a cost to the state? State employees will be WORKING, on the tax payer's dime, to get this thing constructed! And of course all of the immediate law suits. The gall.
    GOP = Big government.