A Ten Commandments monument erected at the Arkansas State Capitol has been given a second chance after a bad first impression left the statue in pieces last summer.
The original six-foot granite structure, installed back in June 2017, remained standing less than 24 hours before an angry local man deliberately rammed it with his truck, shattering the statue.
The driver, Michael T. Reed, famously live-streamed the incident. A video shot from his phone showed him preparing to level the Ten Commandments statue. Reed gave out a cry of “freedom!” as he slammed on the gas and destroyed the $26,000 monument. He was arrested on the spot.
Nearly a year later, Arkansas politicians proudly announced that a replacement statue had been created. Last week, amid much fanfare, a crane lowered the new tablet-shaped monument into place and thick concrete bollards were installed to ward off any future vehicular vandalism.
Ironically, the whole thing was live-streamed. Speaking at the event was Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored a highly-contested 2015 law allowing for the original statue’s placement.
“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 told the crowd.
Christian groups are thrilled to see religious values once again represented on government property. However, others appear less enthusiastic.
Critics Prepare to Fight Back
Also present at the statue’s unveiling were a group of Satanists protesting what they see as a government body endorsing a specific religion – a clear violation of constitutional principles.
The Arkansas chapters of the ACLU and The Satanic Temple have both decried the monument as unconstitutional – and they’re determined to do something about it. Attorneys for the ACLU have announced plans to challenge the government’s decision in court.
And they might have a case. Not only have the courts frequently sided with those challenging religious symbols on government property, but Arkansas appears to have knowingly discriminated against other belief systems. According to reports, the Satanic Temple requested to have their own monument erected on state property, but the state denied this request.
So, while this updated version of the Ten Commandments might be safe from vandals, it’s still not guaranteed to stay standing.
Is It Constitutional?
Backers of the monument insist the Ten Commandments are legally displayed because they are presented in a historical – and therefore not a purely religious – context. They point to a 2005 Supreme Court decision that a similar Texas monument did not betray the Constitution.
But opponents say that’s just a convenient excuse to spread religious propaganda on government property. If the Ten Commandments can be displayed, then what’s wrong with erecting similar monuments to a goat demon? After all, Satanism – just like any religion – can be interpreted through a historical lens. This is what true religious plurality should look like, they argue.
The right to religious freedom is guaranteed to all faiths in the United States. Obviously, Christianity remains the dominant religion – but does that mean Christians should get special treatment?
If the Ten Commandments can be displayed on state property, should other faiths be allowed representation as well?