Lawsuits filed over Ark. Ten Commandments monument

    May 23, 2018

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    LITTLE ROCK – Two lawsuits have been filed by groups seeking to have the recently installed Ten Commandments monument on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds removed.

    The lawsuits say the monument is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment and ask that Secretary of State Mark Martin have them removed.

    One of the lawsuits – filed by a walking and cycling club – is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas. Another lawsuit was filed May 23 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and a coalition of plaintiffs.

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit reads in part “The State of Arkansas has erected an enormous religious monolith on government property in blatant disregard for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. At its core the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment mandates religious neutrality. It prevents the government from favoring some religions over others and religion over nonreligion.”

    The Ten Commandments monument was first installed on June 27 2017 but was toppled and broken within 24 hours by a mentally ill man who rammed it with his vehicle during the night. A replacement statue paid for by donations to the American History and Heritage Foundation was reinstalled April 26 surrounded by four 3-foot-tall concrete posts.

    Sen. Jason Rapert R-Conway who drafted the 2015 legislation authorizing the monument's placement responded to the lawsuits in a statement that said “Today I was informed that several anti-American organizations have filed two federal lawsuits basically declaring their own war” on the monument and its authorizing legislation Act 1231 of 2015 which was codified as Arkansas Code Annotated 22-3-221 the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

    Arkansas' Ten Commandments Monument Display Act was signed into law April 8 2015 by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. It directs Martin – the only named defendant in both lawsuits – to "permit and arrange for the placement on the State Capitol grounds of a suitable monument commemorating the Ten Commandments."