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Arkansas panel OKs Ten Commandments display at state Capitol

May 11, 2017 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas panel cleared the way Thursday for a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument to be installed near the state Capitol — perhaps as soon as next month — prompting opponents who call it unconstitutional to vow to sue over the display.

The Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission approved by a voice vote the location and design of the display, which weighs more than 6,000 pounds and stands at more than 6 feet tall. A 2015 state law requires Arkansas to allow the privately funded monument to be located on the Capitol grounds.

Supporters of the monument have said it’s honoring the Ten Commandment’s role in the nation’s laws.

“This is part of who we are, it’s history,” Republican Sen. Jason Rapert told reporters at the Capitol. “So in Arkansas, we did not have anything that spoke to that and this gives us that opportunity to have that.”

The American Heritage and History Foundation, which raised money for the display, will have to give the state 10 percent of the cost of the monument and its installation before it can be erected. That money will go toward a fund that’s used to maintain monuments on the Capitol grounds, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Kelly Boyd said. The foundation raised more than $26,000 for the monument and its installation.

Boyd said the monument, which will be located southwest of the Capitol building, could be installed as soon as the week of June 10 depending on weather conditions.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas called the monument an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. The organization said it was preparing to sue over the display if it’s installed.

“If they put it up, they’re going to signal to people who don’t’ subscribe to that particular version of the commandments and non-believers they are second-class citizens and we will file suit,” said Holly Dickson, the group’s legal director.

The monument sparked a push by the Satanic Temple for a competing statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two children smiling at it. 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.

The Ten Commandments 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 that state’s Capitol in 2015, and the state’s voters last year rejected an initiative aimed at allowing the monument to return.


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