After five years of litigation, a federal judge will determine whether the Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas capitol grounds is constitutional.
On July 7, First Liberty Institute attorneys and the Arkansas attorney general’s office argued in federal court in Little Rock for the permanence of the statue.
The privately donated monument was erected in 2017 after authorization from the Arkansas State Legislature. However, in less than 24 hours, the monument was deliberately run over and demolished by a driver who was deemed mentally ill. The pillar, which was replaced in 2018, is now guarded by 3-foot-tall concrete posts.
Numerous individuals and anti-religion groups—including the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, The Satanic Temple, Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Humanist Association—have sued in opposition to the Ten Commandment display. They believe the monument is a violation of the First Amendment and shows government favor toward one religion.
While most of the plaintiffs want the monument removed, The Satanic Temple has a further motion. The group is asking that the Temple’s statue of Baphomet (a part-man, part-goat god) replace the removed Ten Commandments monument for the full length of time that the Biblical statue stood; or the Temple would like for the Baphomet idol to be positioned in another area of the State Capitol grounds if the Ten Commandments monument remains.
“The Supreme Court already settled this debate. Displays that are part of the history and tradition of America, like the Ten Commandments, are presumed to be Constitutional,” said First Liberty Counsel Lea Patterson. “Displaying the Ten Commandments—a symbol of law and moral conduct with both religious and secular significance—is a longstanding national tradition as a matter of law. The court should summarily reject these anti-religion activist organizations’ unfounded lawsuits.”
In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that an almost identical monument in Texas was constitutional. In that case, Van Orden v. Perry, Justice Stephen Breyer said in his concurring opinion that the monument “communicates to visitors that the State sought to reflect moral principles, illustrating a relation between ethics and law that the State’s citizens, historically speaking, have endorsed.”
Photo: Andrew DeMillo/AP