Gov. Asa Hutchinson responds this week by signing into law SB 939 which calls for First Liberty Institute’s legal defense of the monument on Arkansas State Capitol grounds
First Liberty Institute’s work on SB 939 follows its efforts to assist Oklahoma
legislators in drafting a bill that authorized the Ten Commandments
monument (pictured above) on Oklahoma State Capitol grounds.
Last week, in a letter dated April 1, 2015, First Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford asked Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to support the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, Senate Bill 939 (SB 939), sponsored by Jason Rapert, R-Conway, which calls for a Ten Commandments monument display to be funded by private entities and placed on the Arkansas State Capitol grounds.
Yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson responded by signing into law SB 939, which also requests that First Liberty Institute prepare and present a legal defense of the monument, if suit is ever brought against the monument.
SHACKELFORD ASSURES GOVERNOR OF CONSTITUTIONALITY
The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act cites the Ten Commandments as “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas.” The Act asserts that the placement of such a monument on Arkansas State Capitol grounds “would help the people of the United States and of the State of Arkansas to know the Ten Commandments as the moral foundation of the law.”
The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act was quickly approved by the Arkansas House and Senate in less than a month and has now been signed by the governor—who was encouraged by Shackelford to support the bill as written and consider these key points:
1. The proposed Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas State capitol grounds is consistent with other Ten Commandments monuments the Fraternal Order of Eagles made ubiquitous.
Most of the Ten Commandments monuments on public property throughout the nation—including public parks, state capitol grounds, and other public lands—were donated by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a notable organization “uniting fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness, and hope.” Notable past members include President Harry S. Truman, President Jimmy Carter, President John F. Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan and entertainer Bob Hope.
2. Ten Commandments monuments are not “new.” In fact, the proposed monument for the Arkansas State Capitol grounds is identical to the one on the Texas State Capitol grounds upheld as constitutional by the United States Supreme Court (Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (U.S. 2005).
In that U.S. Supreme Court decision, First Liberty Institute represented the Fraternal Order of Eagles as an amicus curiae, as well supporting the Texas Attorney General in his argument before the Court. In its decision, the Court explained: “[s]imply having religious content or promoting a message consistent with a religious doctrine does not run afoul of the Establishment Clause.” As reference in the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, the Ten Commandments text declared constitutional in Van Orden v. Perry includes:
“The Ten Commandments
I AM the LORD thy God.
Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven images.
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Honor thy father and thy mother, that they days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against they neighbor.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.”
3. First Liberty Institute recently assisted Oklahoma legislators in drafting a bill that authorized a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds that complies with current legal precedent on this issue.
Working with the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, First Liberty Institute has been successful in defending Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments monument in two separate court cases (one in federal court against American Atheists and one in state court against the ACLU). Both cases are now on appeal.
First Liberty Institute is grateful that Gov. Hutchinson signed The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act this week, and stands confident that any future threatening lawsuits will be overcome.
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About First Liberty Institute
First Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit www.FirstLiberty.org.