A bill that will place a monument to the Biblical Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol has passed the House by a vote of 72-7, with one member voting present.
Senate Bill 939, known as “The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act,” would allow private citizens to fund the creation of a permanent monument to the Biblical Ten Commandments. The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office would be responsible for the design and maintenance of the monument. The bill passed the Senate this morning by a vote of 27-3
Rep. John Walker gave an impassioned speech against the bill today, noting that when the colonists fled Britain to come to North America, one of the things they were fleeing was a government-established religion. “Our country was founded on the idea that while we value religion, we cannot establish a religion,” Walker said. “And therefore there is an establishment of religion clause in the Constitution.”
Walker said that it would be improper for the state to adopt a religious viewpoint, especially one that would likely be seen as offensive by some. Walker went on to say that the U.S. Supreme Court has already addressed the issue by declaring unconstitutional the placement of a Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who Walker notes persists with the idea that public buildings are a proper place for the Ten Commandments.
“He still persists with the notion that because we are each sovereign as states within the United States, we can do what we want to do,” Walker said. “But that was resolved by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. We cannot do what we want to do. Because when those amendments were adopted, all the states agreed to the Bill of Rights.”
Walker said that while American society gives “lip service to the concept of being religious,” he noted that less than half of Americans profess to being involved in organized religion in national polls. Walker said that placing a monument to the Ten Commandments on Capitol grounds would create a schism between religious and non-religious Arkansans, one that he called unnecessary.
“I do not understand why we unnecessarily take on issues that are divisive. This is a divisive issue, primarily set forth in order to make a point that the United States cannot regulate what we do as a sovereign and cannot tell us what to do, and if someone doesn’t like it, they can challenge it,” Walker said. “When can we come to our senses and determine that we don’t have to always challenge things which have already been challenged, where we have lost, and continue to go through that same confrontation with the federal government?”
If the bill to build the monument becomes law, Walker said, the rest of the country will take note, especially as the issue is litigated.
“Again,” Walker said, “we’ll be, as we are now in some respects, the laughing stock of the United States along with Indiana.”
You can listen to audio of Walker’s speech by clicking below: