A bill that would allow for erecting a Ten Commandments monument on state Capitol grounds passed through a House committee Friday.
Eight private citizens spoke against Senate Bill 939, by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, before the House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee cleared it with an 11-3 vote. Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock; Rep. Stephen Magie, D-Conway; and Eddie Armstrong, D-North Little Rock, were the dissenting votes.
The bill requires the designing and construction of the monument to be done by private entities at no expense to the state.
“It would all be done by private donations, no tax dollars involved,” primary sponsor of the bill Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, said.
Walker wondered if the bill has the tendency to “prefer Christianity over over forms of religion that do not recognize the Ten Commandments.”
Hammer disagreed, saying, “There are many historical monuments around the Capitol, and we’re just giving room to another one that has significant historical value."
Hammer cited a similar bill the Oklahoma Legislature passed in 2009.
“It has withstood the scrutiny of not only state court but federal court,” he said.
The bill states that the placement of the monument “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,” but that “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 bill now heads to the full House.