By Benjamin Hardy
On Thursday morning, after a replacement monument to the Ten Commandments was installed at the state Capitol grounds, state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) told a crowd of media, supporters, detractors and onlookers that the monument was not intended to send a religious message, but simply one about history.
“The sole reason that we donated this monument to the state of Arkansas is because the Ten Commandments are an important component to the foundation of the laws and the legal system of the United States of America and of the state of Arkansas,” Rapert said. The senator, who sponsored legislation in 2015 that paved the way for the monument’s creation, also heads the American History and Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit created for the purpose of raising private funds to build the display.
The first version of the monument was installed last June but was destroyed within 24 hours when a man, apparently mentally ill, rammed it with a car. This second version is protected from vehicular assault by concrete bollards; Rapert’s words are intended to help shield it from the inevitable court challenges over religious freedom and discrimination. The ACLU of Arkansas has stated its intent to file suit, and the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers will sue as well. The Satanic Temple, the group that successfully battled a similar monument in Oklahoma in 2015, said it will file as an intervenor to any such lawsuit. As in Oklahoma, the Temple seeks to install a 10-foot bronze representation of a goat-headed deity called Baphomet on the Capitol grounds, which they describe as a symbol of religious pluralism.
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