In a press release issued today, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center denounced Sen. Jason Rapert‘s efforts to fundraise to erect a monument honoring the biblical Ten Commandments at the Capitol.
In a letter sent to Rapert, the group argues that his efforts, part of a law he passed in the legislature last year, violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Rapert reportedly received the letter and pondered it thoughtfully, taking time to reflect on just what the American tradition means, on the complex web of ideals and concerns that led to the First Amendment in the first place. Kidding!
The humanist group argues that Rapert is attempting to promote his own personal religious views. This claim seems hard to refute.
From the letter:
Any attempt to erect a religious monument on government property might raise suspicions regarding a possible intent to promote religion, but yours especially so. With a track record of eagerness to mix religion with government, perhaps most obviously via the “Appeal to Heaven” national legislative caucus that you lead, the purpose of your effort couldn’t be clearer.
From the group’s own words, its “mission is to honor the Lord by networking elected officials who are believers in Jesus Christ, who regularly attend and display a commitment to an evangelical, Gospel-centered church and who will commit to live and govern based on Biblical, constitutional and Federalist principles.”
Let the record be clear that the American Humanist Association decries any attempt to “govern based on Biblical principles” as being both theocratic and unconstitutional. By pursuing this project you are inviting litigation that will come at the expense Arkansas taxpayers, all for the purpose of promoting your personal religious beliefs.
Bring on the lawsuits.
Rapert is trying to raise funds via GoFundMe in order to pay for the monument (his law decreed that a monument would be placed at the Capitol but paid for with private funds). Thus far, after five days, he has raised $6,000 from 48 donors. That’s well short of his $16,635 goal, but he still has more than a week to meet his deadline in order to keep the project on schedule.
A similar effort to place a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol was abandoned in Oklahoma after the state Supreme Court there found that it was unconstitutional.
Inspired by Rapert, Satanists and other groups are also attempting to get their own monuments. Rapert has thus far been less enthusiastic monuments on the Captiol grounds from other traditions.