Monuments War in Arkansas
The Arkansas Senate voted Tuesday in favor a House-backed Bill to revise the procedural protocols for requesting to erect monuments on the State Capitol Grounds. Although the Bill makes no mention of the Baphomet monument request, it’s reasonable to believe that the Bill’s insistence that any monument request must have legislative approval before being considered by the Arts & Grounds Commission is an attempt to block The Satanic Temple’s monuments subcommittee hearing scheduled to take place May 11, 2017, especially as the Bill was penned by Senator Jason Rapert, whose own crusade to erect a 10 Commandments monument at the Little Rock Capitol kicked off this entire battle. The Satanic Temple sent a legal letter warning Arkansas informing officials that cancelling our hearing now would be to apply the new law retroactively, opening the state to litigation in response to damages incurred in nullifying the work we’ve already put toward following the previous monument request guidelines, as well as the blatant viewpoint discrimination, which has hardly been concealed, particularly in public comments by Sen. Rapert. In short, the new rules could only be applied to new monument applications, not requests that are already in motion. Having explained this to the Associated Press (AP), the journalist for AP nonetheless took it upon himself to announce that the new Bill “effectively blocks” the Baphomet request. The AP report failed to even mention our scheduled hearing set for May 11th. This appears to be a disturbing case of the AP intentionally trying to influence an outcome (requests for correction only yielded a ludicrous response stating that the Bill ” doesn’t include any language that says it can’t be applied to proposals already before the commission”!) and it seems that AR will likely take this opportunity — upon the Governor signing the Bill into law — to ignore legitimate processes of implementation and try to kill our hearing entirely. Either way, whether the hearing takes place, or it does not, AR requires that any monument has to have the approval of the Legislature before being erected. This, we argue, is just another means by which the Government can act as arbiter of appropriate religious or political expression in a limited public forum.
The bottom line: Legal action in Arkansas seems all but inevitable.
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