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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

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 2:23 p.m.

    "CLEAR separation of church and state "........

    Having ..."In God we trust"... on US currency sure doesn't sound like a "CLEAR" separation.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 2:25 p.m.

    The Ten Commandments on govt ground.

    The printing of "In God we trust" on United States currency.

    One violates "separation" but the other does not ?

    C'mon !

  • RobertBolt
    May 23, 2018 at 2:29 p.m.

    They both violate the separation of church and state, but we have to spend money to eat. So what?

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 2:34 p.m.

    jmg1232 asks " where did they dredge up these 4 women"?

    Maybe Gwen Combs loaned her 4 clowns from her pro-abortion march .

  • 23cal
    May 23, 2018 at 2:42 p.m.


    FireEyes:
    About "You need to read "Christianity and the Constitution:" Bwhahahahaha! YOU need to read the constitution itself. You know, the entirely secular constitution with no mention of God, Jesus, Ten Commandments, Christianity, Jehovah, or anything remotely Christian in it? Yeah, that one.
    When you finish with that, read a couple of hundred years of established opinions of jurisprudence affirming the constitutional separation of church and state.
    *
    Regarding the tired old "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." No one claims the TERM is, although religious fanatics never tire of pointing out the TERM isn't in there. What is important is that the CONCEPT is in there.
    Pointing out the term isn't in there is as silly as pointing out the term "President's cabinet" isn't in there. The CONCEPT is.
    Pointing out the term isn't in there is as ridiculous as pointing out the term "religious liberty" isn't in there. The CONCEPT is.
    Pointing out the term isn't in there is as absurd as pointing out the term "right to privacy" isn't in there. The CONCEPT is.
    Pointing out the term isn't in there is as laughable as pointing out the term "monogamous relationship" isn't in the Bible. The CONCEPT is.
    The constitution doesn't have a lot of descriptive phrases in it which we customarily use to describe what parts of it provide for such as fair trial, right to privacy, or freedom of religion....but the CONCEPTS are for sure in there.
    The term "Separation of Church and State" describes what the establishment clause DOES. Only a fool believes the phrase itself has to be in the document.
    *
    Entertaining as your arguments against the Separation clause may be, they are scarcely new. By now they’ve failed to convince generation after generation of American judges.

  • 23cal
    May 23, 2018 at 2:47 p.m.

    FireEyes:
    About "FYI: The monument had already WON in the courts previously because it was not paid for with even one red penny of state monies" Nope. That isn't a sufficient reason, and the idea that because it was donated somehow means the state isn't promoting religion by having it on state land is laughable. NOTE: It has been listed as part of a much longer list of reasons, but doesn't stand by itself.
    "I cannot find any meaningful difference between a city's own display of a religious monument and a city's grant of permission to one (and only one) private group to permanently display the monument in the same location when the monument is still surrounded by city property," Federal Judge Crabb wrote in Mercier v. City of La Crosse and Fraternal Order of the Eagles.
    *
    You may also be referring to the Texas ruling which Rapert has been harping on from the beginning. However, he is hoodwinking the ignorant....like you. On the same day, the SCOTUS issued two rulings:
    The court ruled 5-4 in favor of a Ten Commandments display at the Texas State Capitol. “The inclusion of the Ten Commandments monument in this group has a dual significance, partaking of both religion and government,” the majority wrote. It was surrounded by secular icons and had been there a long time.
    The court also ruled 5-4 against a Ten Commandments monument at a Kentucky courthouse (McCreary County). The majority held that the government had acted with “the ostensible and predominant purpose of advancing religion.”
    *
    The Arkansas case more closely resembles the Kentucky case. Read up on them.
    *
    About "Admit it: You hate Christianity and that's why you and those like you hate the Commandments." I despise religious nuts like you who want to turn our nation into a theocracy so you can use the state to foist your myths and superstitious nonsense onto citizens. I have respect for real Christians, PopMom who comments on here being an excellent example of one....and you being an excellent example of the opposite.
    *
    About "Can't be illegal to be here in LR if it's all over DC now can it?" Why, yes......yes, it can. And it is.
    *
    About "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." To claim Christianity isn't a religion just shows how far out on the lunatic fringe you really are. That's........totally bizarre.

  • RobertBolt
    May 23, 2018 at 2:47 p.m.

    Thanks, 23cal. Having put that argument to rest, maybe they can also come to understand that the ten commandments are profoundly inadequate as a complete and sufficient foundation for a legal code.

  • MaxCady
    May 23, 2018 at 3 p.m.

    Let Michael Tate Reed take care of it! You know he did the same thing to the 10C monument in Oklahoma back in 2014. They replaced it but the state supreme court had it removed.

  • jumpedcut
    May 23, 2018 at 3:04 p.m.

    Mac - Since you are such an ardent supporter of the 10 Commandments, I assume you will cease your support for Trump since he flagrantly violates most of them.

    Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery - check!
    Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy - forget church, let's golf!
    Thou Shall Not Covet thy neighbor's wife - It's ok if you're famous, you can just grab them by the p----y!
    Shall not make Idols - Just put your name in huge letter on all your buildings.
    Shall Not bear false witness against your neighbor - Crooked Hillary, Pocahontas, etc. etc.

  • GeneralMac
    May 23, 2018 at 3:36 p.m.

    The sight of that Ten Commandment monument and Sen Jason Rapert brings tears to my patriotic eyes.

    Good Southern folks.

    Makes me glad I chose Arkansas to relocate to.

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