An Arkansas state senator is on a crusade to bring the Ten Commandments to the state capitol grounds, and so far he’s succeeding.
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 page has raised over $18,000 for the Ten Commandments, surpassing their goal of $17,635. Rapert told TheDCNF the monument is scheduled to be ready April 1.
“The vast majority of people in Arkansas and around the country understand that the Ten Commandments contributed to the moral foundation of law in the United States,” Rapert told TheDCNF. “We raised all the funds needed for the initial monument costs in just 12 days.”
But the effort is not without opposition. The activist atheist group, the American Humanist Association (AHA), have publicly warned that if the project 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 a letter to Rapert. “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 2015, 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 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.
Rapert told TheDCNF that citing the Kentucky case is “cherry picking” cases that are “not relevant to our situation in Arkansas.”
“The United States Supreme Court has a sculpture on the east front of the Ten Commandments,” he continued. “The two doors leading into the U.S. Supreme Court chamber have the Ten Commandments engraved on the bottom of each door. When you enter the Supreme Court chamber, Moses and the TenCommandments are looking out from above the head of the Chief Justice into the chamber. It is ridiculous to even say that the Ten Commandments should not be displayed as the moral foundation of law.”
The AHA has a history of suing public officials and local governments over perceived religious endorsements.
“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.”
Despite the lawsuit threats, Rapert is standing firm.
“The majority of feedback I have received is all positive,” Rapert told TheDCNF. “The people of America are tired of having our history whitewashed of our traditional values and principles.”
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