It was early 2015 when Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert (a Republican, of course) filed a bill to install a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Capitol, similar to what the state of Oklahoma once had:
That bill eventually passed, despite the potential legal challenges. After all, the government is forbidden from promoting Christianity, which is all this monument would be doing. The Supreme Court once said that a similar monument was legal because it had been up for decades and was surrounded by other historical displays, but that won’t be the case in Arkansas. This monument would be the only game in town.
Even though that bill passed, however, there was no monument. It was just an idea. Rapert had tried desperately to crowdsource funding for the Ten Commandments monument (on behalf of a private company) but we hadn’t even seen a design yet.
The American History & Heritage Foundation, Inc. finally filed an application yesterday to install the monument, and here’s what we know: It’s more than six feet tall and weighs three tons. $25,000 was raised for the project.
And it will still be illegal.
It’s also not a done deal yet. Arkansas still has an opportunity to do the sensible thing and tell Rapert and his group that such a monument belongs on church property, not government property.
The law requires Secretary of State Mark Martin to consult the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission before approving the design and site for the monument…
Chris Powell, a spokesman for Martin’s office, said the 10-member commission hasn’t yet set a date to take up the monument application and will likely also discuss several other proposals.
Those other proposals may include one from The Satanic Temple, which vowed to respond in kind if Rapert’s Christian monument went up.
“We’ll take this fight wherever its needed,” TST spokesperson Lucien Greaves told me last year.
The ACLU is also watching this story closely:
Rita Sklar, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said the state would be using government property to endorse a religion if it moves forward with the display.
“We think that it is unconstitutional, that the government is not supposed to endorse religion at all or any particular religion, which it is doing if it allows this monument to be built,” Sklar said.
Those would be code words for “We’re writing up the lawsuit now. When you green light the Ten Commandments monument, we’re coming after you.” Arkansas would be wise to reject all outside monuments from the Capitol grounds before things get out of hand.
***Update***: The Satanic Temple tells me their application was already submitted to the Secretary of State. They received a request to provide more detailed information, which they will be offering by the end of the week.
They also included this description of the significance of Baphomet:
The central image we have chosen in our monument design is known as ‘Baphomet’; a goat-headed, angel-winged, androgynous creature first rendered in its most widely recognized form by occult historian Eliphas Levi in the 19th century. The name Baphomet, however, comes much earlier from during the Crusades. ‘Baphomet’ is almost certainly derived from ‘Mahomet’, or Muhammad, prophet of Islam. Muslims were the ‘satanized’ outgroup of the time. For centuries, Jews were regularly accused of all of the things now attributed to an imaginary Satanist conspiracy: infant sacrifice, cannibalism, complex plots against the Common Good. During the early colonization of the US, it was commonly believed that the Native ‘Indians’ worshipped Satan. Later, black slaves were the afeared Satanists, believed to be entering into pacts with the Devil as part of a supernatural plot to overthrow their oppressors. And, of course, most everybody is aware of the Puritan witch-hunts. These unjust accusations — these savage out-group purges — are all a part of the trial and error that helped us to realize our need for a rational, secular legal system.
Standards such as the accuser’s burden of proof, the presumption of innocence, a respect for material evidence, are all a result of our finding ways to subdue brute mob intolerance. Today, we are rightly offended by anti-blasphemy laws and divine fiats.
Our monument will stand in honor of those unjustly accused — the slandered minority, the maligned outgroups — so that we might pay respect to their memory and celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law.
(via Religion Clause. Portions of this article were published earlier)