LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A state commission in Arkansas has scheduled a date to review separate proposals to place a Ten Commandments monument and an homage to Satan on the grounds of the state capitol building.
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin has marked Sept. 13 as the beginning of discussions with the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on whether or not to allow the placement of the monuments.
As previously reported, last year, Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, had proposed the placement of a Ten Commandments monument, which would be funded by private money. Rapert’s bill regarding the matter was approved in the House and Senate, and was subsequently signed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“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,” SB 939 read in part.
“I think as part of our state capitol, it would make a nice addition and give a nice honor to the fact that this is a part of the foundation of American jurisprudence,” Rapert opined. “We have room for many more [monuments], and we don’t have anything in particular that honored that aspect of the moral foundation of American law.”
Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) also told lawmakers that the Founding Fathers recognized that there is a “higher law” than that which is established by men, pointing to the words of the Declaration of Independence, which state, “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
“The 10 Commandments monument is a visible reminder intended to keep us focused outside of ourselves, just as the founders looked outside of themselves for guidance,” he said, according to the Arkansas News.
But the Satanic Temple, a group that seeks to combat what they believe is partiality to Christianity in government, soon requested to also place an homage to Satan at the location. According to its website, the Satanic Temple does not believe in Satan at all, but only views the devil as a metaphor.
“[W]e do not promote a belief in a personal Satan,” its FAQ section explains. “To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”
The Satanic Temple wishes to utilize a Baphomet monument that it originally created to place at the Oklahoma capitol near another Ten Commandments monument, but ended its pursuit after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Decalogue ran afoul of language in the state Constitution.
“To that end, an inscription on the monument shall read, ‘Be it known to all that this statue commemorates the history of law in the United States of America. From the deplorable Satanic Witch Hunts, the cherished doctrines of due process, presumption of innocence and the protection of minorities from the tyranny of mob rule became part of the established foundation of American jurisprudence,'” the group wrote in a press release about the matter.
Spokesman Doug Mesner, who goes by the name Lucien Greaves, said that the request for the placement of the monument is to show that the government can’t approve Christianity and refuse Satanism.
“The Arkansas legislature unwittingly opened the door for our monument to be erected at Little Rock, while they clearly believed they could preference the 10 Commandments,” he said in a statement.
Next month, the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will consider both proposals, and in the meantime, Martin has set up a hotline to receive public input on the matter. Interested parties may call 501-683-6589 to comment on the proposed monuments.