LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A federal judge being asked Friday to remove the ten commandments from Arkansas capitol grounds said she will make a written decision soon.
Attorneys representing offended Arkansans and The Satanic Temple argued opposite lawyers in the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office inside the Richard Sheppard Arnold United States Courthouse.
Each wanted Judge Kristine Baker to make a summary judgment before and in place of a trial on whether the 10 Commandments monument that’s been at the state capitol for the past five years should be left where it is or removed.
The state argued there are a hundred other monuments on public land identical to Arkansas’s 10 Commandments and that legal precedent makes them constitutional.
Their key example is a 10 Commandments monument in Texas that was built in the 1950s and deemed legal in 2005 by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 split, justices argued the monument acknowledged a historically significant influencer on our country’s laws. The state attorneys also pointed to “In God, We Trust” being left on money after legal challenges.
But the parties against the monument had their own examples, saying the Supreme Court has heard cases surrounding the 10 Commandments on public grounds three times, and the 10 Commandments were ordered removed twice.
Because Arkansas passed a resolution called the Ten Monuments Display Act in 2015, the plaintiffs also argue the state is favoring one religion over others.
Matt Kezhaya represents The Satanic Temple and said his group wanted to install a satanic monument of Baphomet on Capitol grounds but received a resounding “Hell no” from at least one member of the Arkansas General Assembly. Others also did not support the idea.
Kezhaya said there had been 1,899 days of the 10 Commandments monument. The Baphomet monument getting that much time would be equal he argued.
Sam Grover with the Freedom from Religion Foundation represents some of the local opposition.
“Our country is founded on a godless constitution and the bill of rights that follows. Our country is founded on the idea of religious pluralism. The strength of our nation is that the government does not tell people what to believe and how to believe,” Grover stated.
John Thurston, Arkansas Secretary of State, told the judge to look back at the founding of the country and the practices of chaplains, days of prayer, and other acknowledgments of religion.
KARK 4 News asked attorneys for the state of Arkansas for comment on its arguments. Attorney General Tim Griffin sent a statement that reads:
Judge Kristine Baker even noted the contradicting precedent regarding 10 Commandment monuments in her questioning today asking, “Do I have to pick and choose what history I look at?”
She ended the hearing without a decision from the bench. Judge Baker said she would issue a written statement on whether it goes to trial, and there is no indication of when that will be.