Lawsuits filed declaring Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional

The second installation of the Ten Commandments monument was placed on Capitol grounds in April. (KATV Photo)

Multiple lawsuits were filed Wednesday morning claiming the Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds violates the U.S. Constitution.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas declaring the monument is "government speech that violates" the First Amendment's guarantee of religious liberty. It seeks to remove the monument and to have the Arkansas Ten Commandments Monument Display Act declared unconstitutional.

A second lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and other plaintiffs also expects the monument to be removed from Capitol grounds. To read the full lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers, click here or scroll below.

“The courts have been clear that the First Amendment protects religious freedom and prohibits the government from engaging in this kind of overt and heavy-handed religious favoritism,” said Rita Sklar, ACLU of Arkansas executive director. “By endorsing a specific set of religious beliefs on government property, Arkansas politicians are violating the constitutional rights of the people they’re supposed to serve.”

The ACLU lawsuit represents four women, Donna Cave, Judith Lansky, Pat Piazza, and Susan Russell, who are members of a walking and cycling club in the capital city and whose regular routes include the Capitol grounds, where the monument resides. Three of the women identify as agnostic and one as an atheist.

“This monument is a government-sponsored religious shrine, and it sends a divisive message that the state endorses a specific religious doctrine to the exclusion of all others,” said plaintiff Donna Cave. “As someone who is agnostic, this endorsement by the state of one religious belief over my own makes me feel like a second-class citizen. Government officials shouldn’t be in the business of dividing people along religious lines — they should represent everyone.”

The second installation of the Ten Commandments monument was placed on Capitol grounds in April, less than a year after the first monument was destroyed when a Van Buren man drove his vehicle into it.

Sen. Jason Rapert released a statement after learning of the lawsuits: "Today I was informed that several anti-American organizations have filed two federal lawsuits basically declaring their own war on the Arkansas Ten Commandments Monument and ACT 1231. I was proud to sponsor ACT 1231 which passed with an overwhelming majority by the Arkansas legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2015. I am encouraged that Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and her office are prepared to defend the people of Arkansas and the Ten Commandments Monument which honors part of the historical and moral foundation law. If the Ten Commandments are good enough to be displayed in the United States Supreme Court Chamber and other state capitol grounds in Texas and around our nation, then they are good enough to be displayed in Arkansas. I look forward to a vigorous defense of the law in Arkansas.”

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