Arkansas replaces Ten Commandments monument at state Capitol
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Ten Commandments monument returned to Arkansas’ Capitol grounds on Thursday, less than one year after a man crashed his car into the original display.
Workers installed the replacement to the 6,000-pound, 6-foot-tall granite display, which is now flanked by four concrete barriers intended to prevent its destruction. A 2015 law required the state to allow the privately funded monument on Capitol grounds.
“This is part of the moral and historical foundation of our country, and that’s why Arkansas passed (the law requiring the display),” Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, who led the push for the monument on the Capitol grounds, said as he watched the display’s installation.
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 American Civil Liberties Union said it would move forward with a lawsuit it planned to file last year over the first monument, calling the display an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the state.
“Arkansas politicians are once again exploiting their position of authority to promote their personal religious agenda - and trampling on Arkansans’ fundamental rights,” ACLU of Arkansas Executive Director Rita Sklar said in a statement. “We will see them in court.”
Dozens of supporters and opponents of the monument appeared at a ceremony Thursday morning to unveil the display. Opponents held signs that read “Honor Thy First Amendment” and “No No No Establishment of Religion.”
Another group, the Satanic Temple, said it planned to intervene in any lawsuit over the monument and claimed the state has discriminated on religious grounds. Lawmakers last year effectively blocked the group’s proposed competing statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two children smiling at it. The Satanic group’s display was halted by a law enacted last year requiring legislative approval before the state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission could consider a monument proposal.
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. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments display from its Capitol in 2015, and the state’s voters in 2016 rejected an initiative aimed at allowing the monument to return.