Arkansas installed a monument of the Ten Commandments outside its Capitol on Tuesday in a move critics say violates the separation of church and state.
The 6-foot, 3,000-pound monument on the Capitol grounds in Little Rock was erected following a 2015 court decision approving the monument.
Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called the monument a visible symbol of government endorsement of one particular religious belief over others, or over no belief.
She said the ACLU plans to file a lawsuit challenging the display.
We have a beautiful Capitol grounds, but we did not have a monument that actually honored the historical moral foundation of law, Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert told reporters at the installation ceremony Tuesday. And today we have now, through the support of people all over the country, mostly from Arkansas, been able to erect this monument at zero taxpayer expense. Rapert, an evangelist, sponsored the legislation to permit the monument,according to Reuters.
After the legislation was proposed two years ago, the Satanic Temple, a group known for pushing the envelope on the issue of separation of church and state, petitioned to have a statue of the goat-headed, angel-winged god Baphomet installed at the Arkansas Capitol.
Other groups, including atheists and Hindus, attempted similar measures to protest the Judeo-Christian monument.
Rapert and other supporters have argued that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a similar display on the Texas Capitol grounds in 2005. But in 2015, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from state Capitol grounds over the unconstitutional display of religion on state grounds.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that promotes the separation of church and state, released a statementTuesday asserting that Arkansas wouldregret its decision to install the monument.
We expect that this monument will be challenged by Arkansas citizens and that it will be struck down by our courts, which have an obligation to uphold the First Amendment, said FFRF Co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. This shameless promotion of religion by legislators will not be allowed to stand.
Patrick Elliott, the groups staff attorney, added, When Arkansas officials inevitably lose in court, taxpayers will be on the hook to cover the attorneys fees for the plaintiffs.
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