HOW THE ARKANSAS TEN COMMANDMENTS MONUMENT BECAME SATAN
The Arkansas Ten Commandments monument was only up for a couple of hours before a Dodge Dart drove through the whole 6,000 pound granite mess.
Come to think of it, legend has it a similar fate befell the original tablets, although that wasn’t a Dodge. Different strokes for different folks.
Even though Arkansas and its creepy anti-Satanist Senator Jason Rapert says it will rebuild, in truth driver Michael Tate Reed (a mentally ill born-again Christian who did this same thing in Oklahoma) probably did them a favor here.
Although he doesn’t realize it, Rapert’s rocky rebuild will shortly invite Satan into his life. Not just via an inevitable lawsuit by the Satanic Temple (among others), but in an even more immediate fashion.
First though, let‘s consider: Just what is with people’s Decalogue fetish in this country? You can’t throw a stone without hitting someone wanting to plant commandments on public land in some states.
Rapert claims that the Arkansas Ten Commandments monument represents “the historical moral foundation of law.”
Personal distaste aside, what the hell is he on about? Picking apart how non sequitur Mosaic law is to American law is so easy that it’s cliché. Every time someone brings it up another Reddit atheist pops into existence, springing fully grown out of his own fedora.
In an amicus briefing to the Alabama Supreme Court in 2003, 41 law professors laid it on the line pretty hard:
“Aside from a failed 17th century attempt at a biblical legal system, American law is viewed as having secular origins. […]
“No respected scholar of history would assert that the Ten Commandments played a significant role in American law.”
I’m not a fancy big city lawyer, but I believe in legal terms that kind of language constitutes “a whoopin‘.”
David Barton (a preacher whose entire career is based on slipping roofies to American law and sticking the Bible into it while it’s blacked out) made his best case for Decalogue law in 2001. Here’s his argument for the legal validity of “Thou Shalt Have No Gods Before Me”:
“This first commandment is incorporated into the very first written laws enacted in America, those in 1610 in the Virginia Colony.”
You can already see the problem: We’re not living under the colonial laws of 1610 today. Which is the reason I’m not legally guilty of witchcraft and set to be pressed to death in the morning.
Barton does cite some more recent laws too. But as Yeshiva University Public Law Chair Marci Hamilton points out:
“Those laws long since have been held unconstitutional. Were the commandments law, they would bump up against the most important fundamental rights” in America.
We have a clear legal right to strange gods in the US. Which is lucky, because my gods are very strange. Sometimes even I don’t even know what the hell they are.
Even so, the Jason Raperts of the world continue to take the legal significance of the Decalogue for granite. And they’re not going to let a little thing like driving angry stop them.
But here’s the catch: When I look at that giant tablet at the Arkansas capitol, I don’t see American history. And I don’t see the word of god. I see Satan.
The word “Satan” can mean a lot of things in its original context. One of my favorite translations is “stumbling block.” As in an actual obstacle in your path.
By erecting this religious display on government land, Rapert invites litigation, public and political scrutiny, and general embarrassment onto his state.
If they rebuild, it means yet more hassle. Even if they somehow win in court, it’ll be a long and expensive pain in the ass.
Which means that before long, that Arkansas Ten Commandments monument will prove a stumbling block for the likes of Jason Rapert. In very literal terms, a Satan of his own making.