Today is the last day for Arkansas politicians to file bills for this legislative session, meaning we should be on the lookout for any shenanigans.
And, oh, what’s this…?
State Senator Jason Rapert (a Republican, of course) has filed a bill to install a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol:
Senate Bill 939 says:
The Secretary of State may permit and arrange for the placement on the State Capitol grounds of a suitable monument commemorating the Ten Commandments and containing the following text, which was displayed on the monument declared constitutional in Van Orden v. Perry…
That particular Supreme Court case involved a monument that had been up for more than 40 years, was surrounded by other historical displays, and was said to not endorse religion by a 5-4 majority.
But you may recall another, similar case that was decided the same day. In a 5-4 majority, the justices said a different Ten Commandments display did indeed violate the Constitution because it was clearly endorsing religion.
Rapert’s Ten Commandments display resembles the one in that latter case much more than it does the former one.
Rapert thinks he can get away with his bill because the display would be paid for by private donors (which is irrelevant) and because there are other monuments on the Capitol grounds… however, those monuments honor veterans and civil rights leaders. Not historical documents. Not various perspectives on the law.
A religious monument on the Arkansas Capitol grounds would stick out like a sore thumb.
But my favorite parts of his bill are at the very end.
First, Rapert says that, in the event of a lawsuit, Liberty Institute (a Christian group) could defend the monument. He doesn’t explain who would pay the opposing side’s legal bills in the event they lost the case, probably because it would be the taxpayers.
Then he says:
The placement of the monument under this section shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.
Well, isn’t that convenient…?
The monument that talks about the Christian God, and says we have to obey that God, and that we shouldn’t worship false idols instead of that God, and how we shouldn’t take that God’s name in vain — none of that is an endorsement of religion.
Sure it isn’t.
This is modern Christian conservatism for you, where government promotion of Christianity is considered neutral and neutrality is considered bigoted.
If you live in the state, please contact your elected officials and tell them to shut down this bill. Then tell them to point and laugh at Rapert the next time they see him in the hallway.
(Thanks to @arkytreefrog for the link)