LITTLE ROCK — A state panel gave final approval Thursday to the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.
The Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission voted unanimously to approve the location and design of the monument, which a 2015 law requires the state to allow if private sources provide the funding.
The American History and Heritage Foundation, the group that applied for approval of the project, must provide the Secretary of State’s Office with full funding for the project, plus money for a maintenance fund, before construction can begin, said Danielle Fusco, a spokesman for the office.
The maintenance fund must consist of 10 percent of cost to install the monument and the cost of the its base, Fusco said. If the funding is provided within 10 days, the installation is expected to be completed in June, weather permitting, she said.
According to the group’s application, the monument will consist of a 6-foot-tall tablet on a 4-foot-tall base.
Two other groups submitted applications to the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission for permission to place monuments at the Capitol celebrating Satanism and the separation of church and state, but earlier this year the state Legislature passed a law to require legislative approval for any monument at the Capitol, and those proposals do not have legislative approval.
Lawmakers also passed a law to allow a monument honoring Gold Star families at the Capitol. An application has been submitted to the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission for approval of that monument, but the application has not yet received a final vote.
Holly Dickson, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, said Thursday the planned Ten Commandments monument will be unconstitutional.
“From the time that bill was filed, we have warned that this is the government taking sides in terms of people’s religious beliefs. The government is supposed to stay neutral in matters of religion, and therefore it’s unconstitutional and will violate Arkansas’ rights and lead to litigation,” she said.
Dickson said the ACLU of Arkansas is “ready, willing and able” to file that litigation after the monument is erected.
Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, who filed the legislation to allow the 10 Commandments monument at the Capitol, said Thursday he was “thrilled” that the commission gave final approval to the monument, which he said will honor “a part of the historical moral foundation of law.”
Rapert said the monument will be an “exact copy” of one that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to stand at the Texas State Capitol.
“I see no reason whatsoever that there is a danger that that monument (in Arkansas) will be coming down,” he said.