Arkansas panel clears way for new Ten Commandments marker
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas commission cleared the way Tuesday for the installation of another Ten Commandments monument outside the state Capitol, after a prior marker was shattered when a man crashed his car into the monolith less than 24 hours after it was put in place.
The Arkansas Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission signed off on the final design, which will include four concrete posts for the monument’s protection.
Officials and supporters said there’s no guarantee that such security measures will prevent the monument’s destruction but that they’re confident with the final design.
“There’s nothing you can do to make it perfect,” said Republican state Rep. Bob Ballinger, who attended Tuesday’s meeting as a representative of the American History & Heritage Foundation, the private group that’s paying for the monument. “We think that considering cost, time and everything, we’ve done everything reasonable possible.”
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Kelly Boyd said the commission will review the security of all monuments on Capitol grounds, which also include ones honoring firefighters, veterans and the nine students who desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School. The Little Rock Nine monument already includes concrete posts similar to the ones that will be placed with the Ten Commandments monument.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas said Tuesday that it plans to sue over the monument.
“Erecting this monument is unnecessarily divisive and undermines our fundamental constitutional commitment to religious liberty for all Americans,” said Holly Dickson, the organization’s legal director. “Religious liberty means the government doesn’t take sides on questions of faith.”
The prior Ten Commandments monument was in place for less than 24 hours before it was destroyed by a man who was also accused of destroying Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument in the same manner. The man, who livestreamed the incident on Facebook , was charged with criminal mischief in Arkansas but has been found mentally unfit for trial.
Ballinger said the replacement monument has already been built and should be installed in the coming weeks.
Arkansas’ monument is a replica of a display at the Texas Capitol that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. After Oklahoma’s monument was destroyed in 2014, a replacement was erected but then ordered removed by that state’s Supreme Court, which determined its location on state property violated a constitutional prohibition on the use of state funds to support a religion.
In Alabama, Roy Moore was removed as chief justice of the state Supreme Court for refusing a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building.
Plans for Arkansas’ monument also sparked a push by the Satanic Temple for a competing statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two smiling children. Efforts to install that display, however, were blocked by a law enacted this year requiring legislative approval before the commission could consider a monument proposal.