Arkansas Lawmakers Pass Proposal to Place Ten Commandments on Capitol Grounds

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Lawmakers in Arkansas have passed a proposal to place a Ten Commandments monument on the groups of the state capitol, sending the bill to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson for signing.

As previously reported, Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) had proposed the monument, which will be overseen by the Secretary of State and funded by private money.

“The Secretary of State shall permit and arrange for the placement on the State Capitol grounds of a suitable monument commemorating the Ten Commandments,” SB 939 reads in part. “The Secretary of State shall arrange for the monument to be designed, constructed, and placed on the State Capitol grounds by private entities at no expense to the State of Arkansas.”

“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,” it continues.

Rapert points to similar monuments in Texas and Oklahoma being declared as constitutional as legal footing for the placement, including the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Van Orden v. Perry. The display will be erected among a variety of displays that are currently on the capitol grounds.

“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.”

After passing the state Senate 27-3 late last month, the bill advanced to the House of Representatives, where it was deliberated on Wednesday.

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Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) 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 Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) spoke against the proposal, opining that the state would soon be the subject of a lawsuit over the matter.

“We’ll be, as we are now in some respects, the laughingstock of the United States, along with Indiana,” he stated.

Following commentary and discussion, SB 939 passed the House 72-7, sending it on to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. It has not yet been reported as to whether Hutchinson has signed the bill into law.

As previously reported, the proposal comes just months after District Judge Thomas Prince of Oklahoma tossed out a lawsuit by means of summary judgment that sought to challenge the presence of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol. Prince concluded that the monument served a historical purpose and not solely the presentment of a religious message as it sits on a plot of land that contains 51 other expressive monuments.

A second lawsuit had been filed against the display, but it was dismissed as U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron declared that the complainant had not proven that she suffers personal injury from the monument’s presence.

Photo: Stuart Seeger

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