LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The controversial Ten Commandments monument was officially unveiled at the Arkansas State Capitol early Tuesday morning.
The monument was the brainchild of State Senator Jason Rapert. He was able to raise private funds for its creation through donations alone.
The six-foot tall monument was installed two years after lawmakers voted to allow it, though the process has been surrounded by controversy.
"Now that we've seen the monument go up, it is still appalling," said Lee Wood Thomas with the Arkansas Society of Free Thinkers. "It's actually much more appalling to see it visualized in-person, than all the run up going up to it. We knew it was a bad idea from the get go. Just because of the Separation of Church and State.”
He and others in the state have been outspoken about their disapproval for the monument, citing it is offensive to those not of the Christian faith and violates the First Amendment's religious liberty protections.
“This isn’t a War on Christianity. This is just secular citizens of Arkansas upholding the Separation of Church and State, an idea that comes from our federal constitution,” he said.
But Rapert thinks the monument represents just the opposite.
"I think there are more people than Christians that are happy," he explained, "because frankly, it is the mosaic code, which obviously was Hebrew, Jewish. So when you think about the Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments is not something that's inherently Christian."
Many say they knew it was just a matter of time before the monument was erected, because it went through all of its legal hurdles, and passed through the Arkansas legislature. But they were pretty surprised to wake up on a Tuesday morning to see the monument had been raised without any sort of public unveiling.
"Installations occur due to weather. Really, you don't know for sure because at any day, you could have weather come up, and destroy an opportunity,” Rapert said.
Throughout the process, the state senator has said the monument has a place on the Capitol grounds, not because of religious reasons, but because American law is derived from the commandments.
Rita Sklar, with the ACLU of Arkansas, said that's not true. She explained that similar monuments and depictions of Christian imagery were allowed to stay in places like Texas and Washington D.C. because they have historic significance.
"To erect a religiously divisive monument in this day and age is really just to thumb your nose at everybody who doesn't belong to a particular religious group and say, 'You're a second hand citizen. You don't belong here. You're not as equal as the people who adhere to this religious faith,'" Sklar said.
The ACLU plans to take the issue to federal court. Senator Rapert claimed the monument is an exact replica of the monument in Texas that passed the Supreme Court test, and should withstand any lawsuit here.
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