First Liberty Moves to Stop Attacks Against Ten Commandments Monument

March 10, 2023
Ten Commandments | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read

First Liberty is asking a federal district court to put an end to legal attacks against the Ten Commandments monument outside the Arkansas state capitol.

In 2015 the Arkansas State Legislature authorized the placement of the monument on the capitol grounds. Less than 24 hours after it was erected in 2017, the privately-donated monument was destroyed when a man ran over it with his pickup truck. The replacement monument was placed in 2018, and it sits among many other monuments recognizing aspects of Arkansas history, including a tribute to the Little Rock Nine, a replica Liberty Bell, and memorials honoring veterans and gold-star families.

Radical groups—including the ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association, the Satanic Temple, and the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers—have all tried to topple this monument. For years, they’ve challenged it in court, and their attacks continue to this day.

Our motion filed this week explains that these legal challenges have no standing or merit. We argue that publicly displaying the Ten Commandments is consistent with longstanding tradition recognizing its historical significance as one of the foundations of our legal system. We’re asking the court to uphold the monument, because the Supreme Court in our own Bladensburg Peace Cross case made clear that there is a “strong presumption of constitutionality” for monuments, symbols, and practices that follow a longstanding tradition of recognizing religion’s important contribution to American society.

The Constitution and longstanding legal precedent make clear that this monument can stay right where it is. Our brief points to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Van Orden v. Perry, which found a nearly identical Texas monument constitutional. In a concurring opinion, Justice Breyer observed that “the establishment clause does not compel the government to purge from the public sphere all that in any way partakes of the religious.”

We also build on the landmark rulings for religious freedom in the Coach Kennedy and the Bladensburg Peace Cross cases (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and American Legion v. American Humanist Association). The victories in American Legion and Kennedy brought an end to the days of offended observers forcing governments to scrub all public references to the divine. Bottom line: historic monuments with religious references and imagery no longer have to be hidden.

Attorney Lea Patterson and First Liberty Live! host Stuart Shepard recently visited the Arkansas Capitol to discuss our ongoing fight to keep this monument standing. Check out their conversation:

As our legal team continues defending this monument, we want to remind you of and encourage you to join First Liberty’s Restoring Faith in America movement. After decades of hostility, God is opening a door to save and preserve our nation’s religious heritage.

How often have you seen or heard about crosses being torn down? What about the many veterans memorials that have been desecrated for including a Scripture? What about Nativity displays outside a city hall or in a public park that were carted off into storage? How many times has a religious symbol or reference been scrubbed because someone claimed to be “offended”? There are simply too many examples to count.

Here’s the good news: Now you can help reverse this widespread destruction. Now you can be a part of the national effort to rebuild and restore.

We must continue our fight in the courtroom. And with God’s favor, we’ll keep bringing more and more victories that will guard religious liberty for you, your children and your grandchildren. But those hard-fought victories will only make a difference when we go forth and boldly live out our faith.

Whether it’s monuments with religious symbolism, displaying our national motto “In God We Trust,” students praying in schools, or our leaders saying a prayer to start our government meetings, these expressions of faith do not have to be banished to broom closets. It’s time for us—for YOU—to go on offense and restore religious freedom where it rightfully and legally belongs.

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