Sa­tanic Tem­ple asks to join suit

It is re­li­gious group, mer­its Capi­tol monument, fil­ing says

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - LINDA SATTER

The Sa­tanic Tem­ple, which de­scribes it­self as “an or­ga­nized re­li­gion” with a mis­sion to “en­cour­age benev­o­lence and em­pa­thy among all peo­ple,” has filed a mo­tion to in­ter­vene in a fed­eral law­suit op­pos­ing the Ten Com­mand­ments monument re-in­stalled April 26 on the state Capi­tol grounds.

“Mo­vants are well ac­quainted with the lit­i­ga­tion but have an in­de­pen­dent the­ory of re­lief and an al­ter­na­tive prayer for re­lief,” states the mo­tion filed on be­half of the re­li­gion, mem­ber Erika Rob­bins of Lit­tle Rock and co-founder Lu­cien Greaves of Salem, Mass.

The law­suit con­tends that place­ment of the monument at the Capi­tol con­sti­tutes an il­le­gal gov­ern­ment en­dorse­ment of re­li­gion in vi­o­la­tion of the es­tab­lish­ment clause of the First Amend­ment.

That law­suit be­gan as two

sep­a­rate law­suits filed May 23 by mem­bers of a walk­ing and cy­cling club who say the 6-foot-tall mono­lith in­ter­feres with their en­joy­ment of a reg­u­lar walk­ing route, and by a group of peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing di­verse re­li­gious view­points, led by Anne Orsi, pres­i­dent of the Arkansas So­ci­ety of Free­thinkers. The free­thinkers group also says the marker’s pres­ence is un­con­sti­tu­tional. The walk­ing group is backed by the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Arkansas.

The pro­posed in­ter­venors, jointly rep­re­sented by Matthew Kezhaya of the Pin­na­cle Law Group of Rogers and Stu­art P. de Haan of Tuc­son, Ariz., said Thurs­day that they are seek­ing a court or­der not nec­es­sar­ily to re­move the Ten Com­mand­ments monument, but to re­quire the state to in­stall their re­li­gious monument as well.

The Sa­tanic Tem­ple wants to erect an 8½-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet — a de­ity that is part man, part goat — on the Capi­tol grounds.

The mo­tion filed Thurs­day says Rob­bins has been in­jured by “dis­parate treat­ment” shown by the state in which she lives, and as­serts, “This court can or­der the place­ment of the Baphomet Monument on pub­lic grounds; or the court can or­der the re­moval of the Ten Com­mand­ments Monument and per­ma­nently en­join the state from plac­ing a new one. Ei­ther will re­solve her is­sue.”

The Sa­tanic Tem­ple went be­fore the Capi­tol Arts and Grounds Com­mis­sion to get ap­proval to erect the Baphomet Monument, only to be halted by a law — spon­sored by Rep. Kim Ham­mer, R-Benton — that went into ef­fect in Fe­bru­ary 2017 and re­quires law­mak­ers to ap­prove pro­pos­als to erect new mon­u­ments be­fore they can be con­sid­ered by the com­mis­sion.

The first Ten Com­mand­ments monument was in­stalled at the Capi­tol on June 27, 2017, but it was top­pled within 24 hours by a man who rammed it with his ve­hi­cle dur­ing the night. The man was later found men­tally un­fit to pro­ceed to trial.

A re­place­ment monument, this time sur­rounded by 3-foot-tall bol­lards, was in­stalled April 26 in the same lo­ca­tion at the be­hest of Sen. Ja­son Rapert, R-Con­way, who cre­ated the Amer­i­can His­tory and Her­itage Foun­da­tion. Dona­tions to the foun­da­tion paid for the monument af­ter Sec­re­tary of State Mark Martin’s of­fice al­lowed its in­stal­la­tion.

“In every con­sti­tu­tion­ally rel­e­vant re­spect, The Sa­tanic Tem­ple’s monument was iden­ti­cal to the Ten Com­mand­ments Monument,” the mo­tion states. “The state’s re­fusal to place the Baphomet Monument has led The Sa­tanic Tem­ple to this court.”

Those rep­re­sented by the mo­tion seek an or­der to place a “sim­i­lar monument of sig­nif­i­cance to them in the spirit of equal pro­tec­tion un­der the law.”

In an af­fi­davit, Greaves said he has per­son­ally seen the Ten Com­mand­ments monument, and “this di­rect and per­sonal con­tact was of­fen­sive and un­wel­come to me. I am of­fended that the State of Arkansas is send­ing a mes­sage to all non-ad­her­ents of Sen­a­tor Rapert’s pe­cu­liar brand of Chris­tian­ity that they are po­lit­i­cal out­siders.”

Rob­bins also sup­plied an af­fi­davit, say­ing the Ten Com­mand­ments monument “makes me feel like I am a sec­ond-class cit­i­zen in my home state and town.”

She said that be­cause of it, “I now avoid the pub­lic grounds on which it is sit­u­ated. This ex­cludes me from Arkansas capi­tol grounds and thereby pre­vents me from par­tic­i­pat­ing in my state gov­ern­ment.”

The mo­tion to in­ter­vene notes that the plain­tiffs in the on­go­ing law­suit “con­sent to in­ter­ven­tion,” but the state has “an­nounced an un­spec­i­fied ob­jec­tion which would re­quire Court res­o­lu­tion,” and asks U.S. Dis­trict Judge Kris­tine Baker to “ei­ther grant the mo­tion with­out a hear­ing or en­ter­tain a hear­ing on this mo­tion.”

The pro­posed com­plaint in the in­ter­ven­tion states that in a 2015 state law per­mit­ting the Ten Com­mand­ments monument at the Capi­tol, the state “pur­ports to pre­scribe sec­tar­ian re­li­gious rules upon the pop­u­lace of this state. It specif­i­cally en­dorses one sect of re­li­gion above all oth­ers (“Thou Shalt have no other gods be­fore me.”) This is anath­ema to our sec­u­lar sys­tem of gov­ern­ment.”

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