An Arkansas state senator is raising money online so a Ten Commandments display can be put on the grounds of the state capitol, but now an atheist group is determined to stop him.
State Sen. Jason Rapert started a GoFundMe page Feb. 17 to pay for a monument of the Ten Commandments, a decision sparked by the state passing a law last year saying it’s permissible to put the monument on capitol building property as long as it’s privately funded. The activist atheist group, the American Humanist Association (AHA), sent a letter Tuesday warning that if the fundraising continues, they may file a lawsuit.
“Let the record be clear that the American Humanist Association decries any attempt to ‘govern based on Biblical principles’ as being both theocratic and unconstitutional,” the group wrote in its letter Tuesday. “By pursuing this project you are inviting litigation that will come at the expense Arkansas taxpayers, all for the purpose of promoting your personal religious beliefs.”
The Ten Commandments Monument Act, passed by the state in April of last year, says “placing of a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol 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.”
The law also says, “the placement of the monument under this section shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.”
The GoFundMe page has raised over $6,500 through more than 50 donations. The webpage says the fundraising goal is $16,600.
The AHA says the monument would violate the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment. Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled last year that a Ten Commandments monument must be removed from state capitol property. While proponents of the Arkansas monument point to the U.S. Supreme Court case Van Orden v. Perry, where the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas Ten Commandments display was constitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that same year in a Kentucky Ten Commandments case that the monument was unconstitutional. Texas’s monument was acceptable to the court because it had more historical value that gave it a secular purpose.
“Many people in Arkansas have already expressed concern about the Ten Commandments monument and its excessive state entanglement with religion,” David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, said in a statement. “We urge Sen. Rapert to stop this project and turn his attention to the practical, real-world needs of all of his constituents, both religious and nonreligious.”
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