It was April when Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert (below) defied warnings from church/state separation activists and installed a stand-alone Ten Commandments monument outside the State Capitol. Within a month, two separate groups had filed lawsuits against the state.
One of the lawsuits was filed by a coalition of non-theistic groups, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, and seven individuals (both religious and nonreligious) who live in the state.
The sole defendant is Secretary of State Mark Martin who allowed all this to happen.
The basic argument went like this: A stand-alone Christian monument violates both the state and U.S. constitutions, since they both prohibit government establishment of religion. And this is, no doubt, a Christian monument. Rapert said so multiple times, as did donors to his GoFundMe page. The Arkansas legislature was warned about the legal problems during public hearings… but they ignored the critics. Not only that, legal precedent is clear that these kinds of monuments are illegal. Even the Supreme Court has weighed in on this.
The other lawsuit was filed by the ACLU of Arkansas on behalf of four atheist and agnostic women.
We still await a decision on those lawsuits.
In the meantime, however, The Satanic Temple has gotten involved.
You may recall that they applied to put up their own statue of Baphomet via the same process used to approve the Christian display… but they were rejected.
They just filed a motion to act as intervenors in this legal battle. In short, that means they’re asking the courts to let them join in the litigation because they would directly be affected by how a judge rules on this matter in the other lawsuits.
The plaintiffs, including co-founder Lucien Greaves and Arkansas member Erika Robbins, aren’t demanding that the court take down Rapert’s Christian monument (like the other groups). While the Satanists admit that’s illegal, they’re offering an alternative remedy: Just install our statue on the Capitol grounds.
(You also have to appreciate any lawsuit that includes this description of a Plaintiff: “Lucien Greaves visited Arkansas during the second installation of the Ten Commandments Monument and was personally offended by its erection.”)
As of this writing, the State has “announced an unspecified objection” to the motion, and the Satanists are asking a judge to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
An immediate request for comment from State Sen. Rapert went unanswered. I’m sure it won’t be long before he says something, though.