Atheists retaliate: Want 'no gods' monument on Arkansas capitol grounds

by Gregory Tomlin |

(Eric Felack/Trib Total Media)A Ten Commandments monument, erected in 1957 by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, stands outside of Valley High School in the New Kensington-Arnold School District in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. The monument is one of many the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), a Wisconsin-based atheist group, is seeking to have removed. In April, Arkansas legislators passed a law allowing the state to place a Ten Commandments monument on capitol grounds. FFRF has warned the state not to build the monument. It has also asked to establish its own stating "there are no gods."

LITTLE ROCK (Christian Examiner) – The day after the Arkansas Secretary of State's office notified a Hindu group it could not build a statue to their monkey god, Lord Hanamun, on the capitol grounds in Little Rock, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) asked the state to allow it to construct a monument saying "there are no gods."

In April, Arkansas legislators approved and Gov. Asa Hutchison signed into law a bill that allows the governor to authorize the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the capitol lawn. That decision had atheists, Satanists and other groups seeing red.

In fact, after the law was passed, the Satanic Temple announced it wanted to erect a statue of Satan at the Arkansas capitol. The temple later placed the statue of the Prince of Darkness in Detroit.

In a letter to Gov. Hutchison Aug. 25, FFRF's Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor said "most freethinkers find the Ten Commandments to epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the Bible as a book of morals."

Most freethinkers find the Ten Commandments to epitomize the childishness, the vindictiveness, the sexism, the inflexibility and the inadequacies of the Bible as a book of morals.
- Freedom from Religion Foundation

"The first four commandments have in fact nothing to do with good conduct, but are threats revealing the uneasy vanity of the biblical deity. The Ten Commandments, couched in negatives and full of 'thou shalt nots,' are the antithesis of the Bill of Rights, focused on positives and guarantees to protect freedom, liberty and conscience," the letter also said.

The letter continued:

"The first commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me,' is reason alone to have vetoed the Ten Commandments bill that passed your legislature this year. It is not the business of the State of Arkansas to tell citizens which gods to have, how many gods to have or whether to have any gods at all! It is not the business of the secular State of Arkansas to endorse one set of religious edicts or another, or religion over non-religion."

The history of Ten Commandments monuments of public lands is complicated. In some cases, the monuments are allowed to remain if the state can show they have a historical purpose. In Van Orden v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas state capitol could remain because it was one of 17 monuments there that represented phases of Texas history.

In Oklahoma in July, however, the state Supreme Court ruled that a newly constructed monument contravened the state's constitution and had to be removed, in spite of the fact it was built with private funds. The monument, however, remains on capitol grounds as the ruling is being appealed by the state's attorney general.

FFRF claims in its letter to the Hutchison that it will provide its monument at its expense. If approved, which is unlikely without legislative action, the monument would read:

"MAY REASON PREVAIL

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.

There is only our natural world.

Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Freedom depends on freethinkers.

KEEP STATE AND CHURCH SEPARATE

Presented (add date) to the State of Arkansas on behalf of the membership of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, in honor of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."

The Aug. 25 letter to Hutchison is the second letter FFRF has sent to Hutchison. On April 22, FFRF warned Hutchison in a letter that he should not seek to place the Ten Commandment monument on capitol grounds.

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