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Isn't this where we came in? It's definitely time to head for the nearest exit when the movie starts bearing an unmistakable resemblance to the one you've already seen time and again.

This one features the same cast of characters Arkansans have seen go through their practiced paces till the audience can recite the dialogue in unison with the players, who must be as bored with the film as all the rest of us. This less than all-star production would naturally get a rave review from state Senator Jason (Bad News) Rapert of Conway, who says he's deeply offended by the united efforts of all these strange bedfellows it's brought together in a not so grand alliance that stretches all the way from devout Christians to the American Humanist Association and many points far beyond and in between. Hail, hail, the gang's all here and ready for a rip-roarin' lollapalooza of a show in the best American tradition, which is always both wildly revolutionary and profoundly conservative.

Gentle Reader can decide what brings this holy and/or unholy alliance together. It's all kind of bizarre, yet as star-spangled as any other collection of red-white-and-blue Americans, but you pays your money and you takes your choice. Welcome to America in all her infinite variety. Just look over the names and affiliations of the motley crew who've asked Arkansas' secretary of state Mark Martin to get rid of the 6-foot-tall monolith now adding to all the flotsam and jetsam obstructing the view of the state Capitol's lawn flowing unimpeded down to the curb.

There's dear Anne Orsi, president of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, bless her heart, and a writer to boot (who isn't these all too expressive days?); the Freedom from Religion Foundation; a member of the Episcopal Church for a dash of respectability; someone who describes herself as a practicing New Testament Christian with no fear of redundancy; a solitary Wiccan, Pagan and Buddhist who clearly has a lot of irons in this particular fire; Rabbi Eugene Levy; Rev. Vic Nixon, a Methodist minister; and agnostic Walter Riddick, counselor-at-law. Put 'em all together and there's no telling the combustible result. It all sounds like a typically American fireworks display about to get underway with a bang and not a whimper.

Rita Sklar, who directs the Arkansas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union with vim and vitality, couldn't disagree more with Senator Rapert, for as she explains: "The courts have been clear that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and prohibits the government from engaging in this kind of overt and heavy-handed religious favoritism." Not to mention the only slightly more subtle tactic of defending religion while pretending to be defending only the civil law. If you're going to be a believer, why not come out in the open and say so? It would be more honest, whatever the legal consequences, and more worthy of respect.

Senator Rapert, who could never be accused of understatement, fired a verbal shot across the bow of the good ship America by describing those on the other side of this question as, yes, "anti-American organizations." He seems blissfully unaware that about the most anti-American accusation one can make is to claim that one's opponents in this debate are being, yes, anti-American.

For here we believe in the free exercise of not just religion but speech. And are willing to risk the candor that goes with saying what one truly believes.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Editorial on 06/03/2018

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  • 23cal
    June 3, 2018 at 7:33 a.m.

    For more than six years, the city of Bloomfield, New Mexico tried defending an illegal Ten Commandments monument outside a local municipal building. The monument was put up for religious reasons in 2011, then ruled unconstitutional (obviously) by multiple courts. Instead of accepting that result, city officials were goaded by the Christian Right into fighting back. The ACLU warned them not to do it since the law was very clear on this topic… but they didn’t listen. Eventually, they ran out of appeals and owed the ACLU $700,000.
    If you do the quick math, that means 1.9% of the budget will be spent on covering their legal bills. It’s a special Bloomfield-only Tax for not listening to the ACLU. And that’s the generous number.

    It’s a lot of money that could’ve gone to a better cause if the city officials weren’t so ignorant of the rules.
    This is exactly what Arkansas taxpayers have to look forward to in this boondoggle.

  • JakeTidmore
    June 3, 2018 at 9:41 a.m.

    The Screecher & Preacher Stanley J. with his Tin Drum Self Righteous Band and their Yappy Dog backup singers have overstayed their welcome and left us holding the bill for their foolishness.
    In regards to Stanley's actions and the question WWJD - there already is a biblical answer: Jesus wept.

  • TimberTopper
    June 3, 2018 at 10:22 a.m.

    But, time and the law will remove it.

  • mrcharles
    June 3, 2018 at 10:49 a.m.

    He who made kittens put snakes in the grass.

    Again it is not that Jason is insane, nor others like him. They have an agenda like all 3 abramic deity systems to establish theocratic rule..and the 2 non Jewish ones clearly indicate they would like to return to when they were strong and could stifle thinking thoughts by torture and death. Spinoza was attacked by both celestial decoders of the judeo-christian gods.

  • Foghorn
    June 3, 2018 at 10:57 a.m.

    AR taxpayers didn’t get to vote on it. It wasn’t paid for by AR taxpayers. Any legal bills for defending it’s presence on public property had better go directly to Rapert and the org that paid for the abomination, not to AR taxpayers.

  • notbot
    June 3, 2018 at 1:05 p.m.

    Baphomet arise and take your rightful place at the capital! I’d much rather have that than commandments(!) or confederate statues.

  • MaxCady
    June 3, 2018 at 8:27 p.m.

    Why do you keep saying that martian is from Conway?? He's the Bigelow Raper!

  • MaxCady
    June 3, 2018 at 8:30 p.m.

    Put a Razorback head on that Baphomet and the fans would flock to it!!

  • carpenterretired
    June 3, 2018 at 9:56 p.m.

    Well Evangelicals do have great feelings of rightness from public piety and although the Anglican version of the Ten Commandments forbids graven images and Rapert is a model Pharisee , one can argue that as the legislature is republican they are in need of a daily viewing of a graven image of the Ten Commandments.

  • mrcharles
    June 4, 2018 at 11:50 a.m.

    Perhaps the goat-herders society of mountain deities has decided with the present SCOTUS that not only will they say the Idol is Ok, but that it is required on all government property . Then we can have government sanctioned prayer in schools, to start a holy war among the various one true deity systems, as salvation depends on one way, we just dont know what it is .

    Does someone know all the rules about this hunk of material? I mean can we worship it , touch it, do sacrifices on or near it, or can we look at it with bowed heads or will a direct gaze turn us into ionized salt, are we allowed to take photos and sell them without paying a fee to the boss of bosses?

    I agree with the jews, just like the 2nd amendment's intent, this Idol's intent is to be in hebrew as it was conjured up by hebrew jew goatherders who were so tidy that they left no trace whatsoever in their wondering [ strand as most deity gop have no concern of humans leaving traces on the environment [{ Uncle Joe reminds me it is cause any hour now the end is near as clearly the times are as predicted with the anti-christ arisen}.

    I have foreseen school districts requiring a pilgrimage by all students before they graduate to this most holy site. High School feetball teams will come to make sacred pledges for trouncing their enemies since the law , for now, won't allow them to smite their enemies.