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These must be the end times, for the lion and lamb were both represented on the grounds of Arkansas' state Capitol for the grand unveiling of Ten Commandments No. 2. In the opposite corner was the most diverse crowd of animals political and otherwise assembled since old Noah unloaded his ark.

A crowd of several dozen preachers and legislators was there to celebrate this command performance. While delegations from the Satanic Temple and the American Civil Liberties Union plus still other outfits had gathered on the state Capitol's rain-sodden grounds to protest the entire proceedings and to promise/threaten that litigation would follow celebration soon enough.

If this circus had a ringmaster, it had to be Jason Rapert, state senator from Conway. In addition to serving as president of the American History and Heritage Foundation that put up the money to buy the second of two such monuments after the first one allegedly was run over by Michael Reed of Van Buren, who was found mentally unfit and hustled off to the State Hospital where he now resides.

Brother Rapert not only has a rug on the floor and a title on the door but his own foundation and its own vast store of legalese at his command. For what would a prophet be these oh-so-modern days without a sales pitch? Here's a sample of Senator Rapert's: "The sole reason that 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 the legal system of the United States of America and of the state of Arkansas. Passive acknowledgments of the role played by the Ten Commandments in our nation's heritage are common throughout America, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that such monuments are constitutional."

So all of us are supposed to believe that the reasons for this latest blend of church and state are purely secular? It's as if Moses had come down from Sinai proclaiming not a religious revelation but that he'd been given only a secular code of law, the better to withstand any legal changes. This is less revelation than rationalization. Which is what happens when, yielding to political and legal pressures, men make a confession less of faith than of faithlessness.

Uh-huh. Ain't nobody here but us idolators. The line forms to your immediate left. Leading the queue is Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Satanic Temple of Salem, Mass.--yes, that Salem, site of the original witch hunt on this continent. Which set the sad precedent for many an inquisition to follow in this supposed land of the free and home of the brave. Mr. Greaves' group proposed a 10-foot-tall bronze image of Baphomet, complete with a goat's head and angel's wings. The nightmarish image is supposed to represent religious pluralism but comes closer to summing up irreligious nuttism.

Oh, First Amendment to the Constitution! What crimes not just political but aesthetic are carried out in thy name! Hey, it's a free if not anarchic country and everyone is free to dream up his own god to worship in his own way, however outlandish.

But fair is fair: If these zealots are willing to let us respectables practice our own religious faiths, we the vast majority should let others do their thing. America, today's Rome, might do well to note how the Roman empire treated the multitude of sects that sprang up during its long decline--with tolerance.

To quote English historian Edward Gibbon: "The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful." Rome's centuries of decline were longer than many another civilization's whole history. Why argue with success?

Judging just by longevity, toleration would seem to make a lot more sense than dancing to the tune of that old devil intolerance. If such a policy was good enough for the Caesars, why not for us? The proof is in the results, and their lesson is that tolerance pays. Clio, muse of history, has many a moral yet to leave with us before her story is concluded. Let us heed her while there is yet time. Just because her song contains no surprises is no reason to miss it. Now let us go and study.


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

Editorial on 05/02/2018

Print Headline: Another graven image

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  • MaxCady
    May 2, 2018 at 10:29 a.m.

    NO, NO, NO!! Conway does NOT claim that martian!! He's from Bigelow!!

  • mrcharles
    May 2, 2018 at 11:19 a.m.

    I do not buy the argument that this was just a holy perch made for tired pigeons in penance by ARkansas for throwing turkeys out of a plane. I think there are many highway over-passes that provide that public need. I believe rapter was speaking in tongues when he spoke at the speaking, as he made no sense. Yet glad for the attendance of the purely secular attendees there to make this a purely secular event. Please by my ocean frontage outside of n. Little Rock.

    Will tax dollars be used to clean pigeon poop off of it? Will tax dollars be used to transport gullible school children to look at this Graven Image and be deluded into thinking this is the "TEN COMMANDMENTS"? I believe this would be child endangerment as improper belief they say sends you to hell.

    I must admit the idea of other Idols, Graven images, statutes, stuff and other stuff being put up in the general area is a bad idea. Doubling down on stupid is just doubling down on stupid, and we can leave that duty for the legislature... I is a prophet after all and believe this is one of the against statement against the legislature.

    Another judgment against this actions, says me. I am coming at you Rapter's Idol, I will churn up many thinking ilks, even as the sea churns up its waves. they shall destroy the graven image of Rapter and raze his Idol, I will scrape the ground from it and leave it a bare rock. I have spoken but do not be afraid as your daughters will not be slaughtered like that other thing promised to bad bad ILKS.

  • GeneralMac
    May 2, 2018 at 11:37 a.m.

    (4 th paragraph ).........if the Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that it WAS constitutional, there is no legal arguement against it.

  • JakeTidmore
    May 2, 2018 at 12:13 p.m.

    Let's skip ahead to a more recent SC ruling: (Article is from AP, October 2017)

    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with a lower court that ordered a New Mexico city to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the lawn outside City Hall.

    Civil liberties advocates behind the case called the decision involving the city of Bloomfield a victory for the separation of church and state.

    ACLU of New Mexico Executive Director Peter Simonson said it sends a “strong message that the government should not be in the business of picking and choosing which sets of religious beliefs enjoy special favor in the community.”

    So, if this SC says it's illegal - then it's illegal.

  • GeneralMac
    May 2, 2018 at 12:19 p.m.

    Jake........thanks for the update.

  • 3WorldState1
    May 2, 2018 at 12:54 p.m.

    This is not good for freedom of religion.

  • MaxCady
    May 2, 2018 at 3:43 p.m.

    Put a Razorback head on that Baphomet and it would look great next to Rapert's stone.