(USA Today) After years of heated debate, a monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments has been installed on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas and other opponents have vowed to sue over the controversial display, which was erected Tuesday morning (June 27). They believe the privately funded monument is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.
“If they put it up, they’re going to signal to people who don’t subscribe to that particular version of the commandments and nonbelievers they are second-class citizens and we will file suit,” Holly Dickson, the ACLU’s legal director, told U.S. News and World Report when the monument was approved in May.
Supporters of the monument, such as Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, say the display honors the role the Ten Commandments have played in the history of the nation’s law.
“We’re very happy today to see Act S1231 of 2015 fulfilled with the installation of the Ten Commandments monument today, and we’re very grateful to all of those who donated to the American Heritage and History Foundation,” Rapert said.
Act S1231 is a law, sponsored by Rapert, which required the monument be built somewhere on Capitol grounds.
The American Heritage and History Foundation raised more than $26,000 to build the 6-foot, 6,000-pound tablet through a GoFundMe page created by Rapert.
Rapert defended the bill against those who seek to “belittle or create controversy” over the monument, citing Van Orden v. Perry, the Supreme Court decision that ruled Texas could display a Ten Commandments monument at its state Capitol. This monument is a replica of Texas’ display.
He noted that the Ten Commandments are also displayed in the United States Supreme Court building, saying, “If it’s good enough for the United States Capitol, it’s good enough for the state of Arkansas.”
Adding to the debate, the Temple of Satan had tried to install its own statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged creature accompanied by two children smiling at it. The statue, once destined for the state Capitol of Oklahoma, was blocked yet again by a law requiring legislative approval before monuments can be considered.
State Supreme Courts have historically been less lenient with religious monuments on public property.
The state Supreme Court of Oklahoma ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma in 2015 on the grounds that it violated a provision in the state constitution prohibiting use of state property to further religions. A similar monument was removed from a town hall in New Mexico in 2014 when a judge ruled it violated the First Amendment.