Faith films’ ex­ecs give $25,000 to fix Com­mand­ments

New stone mon­u­ment ex­pected to be ready for in­stal­la­tion in two months

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - EMMA PET­TIT

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers of the Chris­tian God’s Not Dead movie se­ries do­nated $25,000 Thurs­day to re­place a Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment after the orig­i­nal was smashed less than a day after its in­stal­la­tion on state Capi­tol grounds.

The 6-foot-tall stone in­scribed with the 10 bib­li­cal laws was erected near the Arkansas Supreme Court build­ing June 27. Early the next day, ac­cord­ing to po­lice re­ports, Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren drove a Dodge Dart into the mon­u­ment, which top­pled, shat­ter­ing the gran­ite. He was ar­rested at the scene and faces mis­de­meanor charges of de­fac­ing an ob­ject of pub­lic re­spect and crim­i­nal tres­pass, and first-de­gree crim­i­nal mis­chief, a felony. Tate and is be­ing held in lieu of $100,000 bond.

The orig­i­nal God’s Not Dead fol­lows a col­lege stu­dent who ar­gues about the ex­is­tence of God with an un­be­liev­ing pro­fes­sor. The fol­low-up, God’s Not Dead 2, was filmed in Lit­tle Rock in 2015, the same year state Sen. Ja­son Rapert, R-Bigelow, spon­sored a bill to get the Ten Com­mand­ments trib­ute in­stalled. The two movies grossed more than $80 mil­lion com­bined, ac­cord­ing to Box Of­fice Mojo, a web­site that tracks movie rev­enue.

God’s Not Dead 3 will be film­ing in Lit­tle Rock in the fall, Rapert said.

At Thurs­day’s news con­fer­ence, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from PureFlix En­ter­tain­ment and GND Me­dia Group joined Rapert at the Capi­tol ro­tunda to present him with a $25,000 do­na­tion.

Bob Katz and Troy Duhon, ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers for the se­ries, con­tacted Gov. Asa Hutchin­son after the mon­u­ment’s de­struc­tion and of­fered the money, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease.

Duhon spoke briefly at Thurs­day’s news con­fer­ence and said his son asked him the pre­vi­ous night why it was im­por­tant to re­build the trib­ute.

“Tell me what Amer­ica would look like if Amer­i­cans hon­ored the Ten Com­mand­ments,” Duhon told him.

Rapert told re­porters at a news con­fer­ence June 28 he had no in­tent to use tax­payer dol­lars for the new stone. The orig­i­nal was paid for by $26,000 raised by the Amer­i­can His­tory & Her­itage Foun­da­tion, which Rapert cre­ated.

In­clud­ing the $25,000 gift, roughly $55,000 in to­tal has been raised in pri­vate do­na­tions since the mon­u­ment was de­stroyed, the se­na­tor said Thurs­day. People have sent in money on­line through a fundrais­ing web­site and given by mail and in per­son, he said.

After thank­ing donors and sev­eral Arkansas law­mak­ers, Rapert told the au­di­ence the new mon­u­ment would likely be out­fit­ted with “aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing” se­cu­rity of some kind. That some­one would drive to Lit­tle Rock and ram the mon­u­ment was some­thing “no­body could have fore­seen,” he said.

The Amer­i­can His­tory & Her­itage Foun­da­tion is “ready for any cost that is needed” to sup­port the mon­u­ment, Rapert said. Any ex­cess money will be fun­neled to other foun­da­tion-ap­proved projects, he said.

Arkansas’ stone will be ready for in­stal­la­tion in about two months, Rapert said. The new and old mon­u­ments will be the same “right down to the gran­ite that was used,” he said.

Rapert’s leg­isla­tive push for a Ten Com­mand­ments mon­u­ment trig­gered a de­bate on the ap­pro­pri­ate­ness of re­li­gious sym­bols on govern­ment prop­erty. Sev­eral sec­u­lar groups, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the Sa­tanic Tem­ple, have promised law­suits if a mon­u­ment is erected.

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