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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert speaks at the unveiling of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock on Thursday, April 26, 2018. The display replaces a monument that was destroyed nearly a year ago. Rapert sponsored the legislation requiring the privately funded monument on state Capitol grounds. (AP Photo/Andrew DeMillo)

LITTLE ROCK — Opponents of a Ten Commandments display at the Arkansas state Capitol filed federal lawsuits Wednesday to have the monument removed, arguing it's an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by government

Separate complaints were filed challenging the display, which was installed on the Capitol grounds last month. A 2015 law required the state to allow the privately funded monument. The monument was reinstalled last month after the original version was destroyed by a man who crashed his car into it.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas sued on behalf of four Arkansas residents — three who identify themselves as agnostics and one as atheist — who are members of a walking and cycling club whose routes include the state Capitol grounds. The group asked that the monument and the law requiring its installation be ruled unconstitutional.

"Viewing the context surrounding both the Act and the resulting Ten Commandments Monument makes it likely that they will be perceived by adherents of the majority religious denominations as an endorsement of their beliefs, and by nonadherents as a disapproval of their individual religious choices," the group said in its lawsuit.

The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of a coalition that includes the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Arkansas Humanist Association, as well as a Methodist minister and a rabbi who objected to the monument's display.

[DOCUMENTS: Read lawsuits seeking to have the Ten Commandments monument removed]

A spokesman for Secretary of State Mark Martin, who is named as the defendant in both groups' lawsuits, declined to comment on the lawsuit. The lawmaker who led the push to put the Ten Commandments at the Capitol said he's confident the display will be upheld.

"It is time for the people of this nation to stand together and defend our history and heritage," Republican Sen. Jason Rapert said in a statement. "I am committed to defending this law, I am committed to defending the U.S. Constitution, and I am committed to defending the Ten Commandments monument."

Last June, the original monument was outside of the state Capitol less than 24 hours before it was demolished. Michael Tate Reed, the man accused of driving his car into it, apologized in 2015 for also destroying a Ten Commandments monument outside Oklahoma's Capitol. Reed was charged with criminal mischief in Arkansas, but a judge in November found him mentally unfit for trial and ordered Reed to be held by the state hospital for further evaluation.

The 6,000-pound, 6-foot-tall granite display is now flanked by four concrete barriers intended to prevent its destruction.

Arkansas' monument is a replica of a display at the Texas Capitol that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. The court that year struck down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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Archived Comments

  • 23cal
    May 23, 2018 at 11:05 a.m.

    The United States of America sprang into existence during the Enlightenment, a period also known as the Age of Reason. The founding fathers, including those who wholeheartedly embraced religion, firmly committed themselves and their nation to a separation of church and state. They knew the dangers of a government that deferred to religion, and they knew of the oppressive abuses of religion in control of a state.
    When our modern legislators insist that the principles of American government created during the Age of Reason were founded on religion, they rewrite history. When they insist that a secular body of laws harken back to ten religious laws, they embrace alternative facts. When they pass a law dictating the language that should go on a monument to be “donated” to the people of Arkansas through the public efforts of one of their own, and the language of that law requires directions for worship, they establish religion.
    This monument will lose in the courts. The only question is how much this boondoggle will cost the taxpayers. This is nothing but free PR for the Arkansas legislators who pander to the most religiously fanatical of their base. "Free" meaning free for them, but very costly to us taxpayers.

  • Walklady
    May 23, 2018 at 11:11 a.m.

    Just what is it that people don't understand about the separation of church and state? What's good for one group should be good for all, religious or non-religious. If this monument remains, then ALL groups should be allowed to install their own monuments, regardless what it is.

  • 3WorldState1
    May 23, 2018 at 11:17 a.m.

    Well said everyone. Seems very Reason able.

  • woowhoo
    May 23, 2018 at 12:04 p.m.

    Jason Rapert should have to personally fund the state's defense.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 12:42 p.m.

    Yet no one has a problem spending money that has.............."In God we trust"..... printed on it ?

    May 23, 2018 at 12:45 p.m.

    I have a problem with that, Drunken Klansman.

    Always have.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 12:54 p.m.

    ARMNAR..............evidently you don't or you would have done something about it by now besides shooting your smart mouth off.

  • FireEyes
    May 23, 2018 at 1:12 p.m.

    23Cal - You are poorly educated or rather brainwashed. What they did is prohibit establishment of a STATE denomination, such as Anglicanism, while keeping Christianity alive and well in ALL the founding documents! You need to read "Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of the Founding Fathers" by John Eidsmoe.

    FYI: The monument had already WON in the courts previously because it was not paid for with even one red penny of state monies. The replacement was totally privately funded as well.

    Admit it: You hate Christianity and that's why you and those like you hate the Commandments. I suggest you take a look at all the buildings built during the era of the Founders and.....oh mercy, shock upon shock, you will find COUNTLESS BIBLE passages and carvings. Can't be illegal to be here in LR if it's all over DC now can it?

  • FireEyes
    May 23, 2018 at 1:19 p.m.

    For you radicalized liberals, the term "separation of church and state" is NOT in the Constitution or any of the Amendments nor is it in the Declaration. The term was in a letter from Jefferson to a group who feared the establishment of a state religion, such as Catholicism or Anglicanism. Jefferson explained that was not possible the way the government was set up.

    What you Christianity haters need to realize is that what is prohibited is a state DENOMINATION and not the expression of Christianity, which is not a religion. Buddhism is religion, Baptist is religion, Sikh is religion, etc........religion is man made; Christianity God made. You're fighting against God and can't even admit it. Get a spine and admit you want a society of free for all and no slight hint of God.

  • jmg1232
    May 23, 2018 at 1:29 p.m.

    I wonder where they dredged up these 4 women who are offended. If they had any sense, they would find something better to protest. This will be a distraction from real injustices that actually matter. The ACLU should be ashamed to waste resources on such a stupid lawsuit. How can this even make the top 50 list of concerns for the ACLU?