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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

FFRF lawsuit moves forward

Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert stands next to a Ten Commandments monument.

Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert so far has avoided contempt of court after initially refusing to allow plaintiffs, including FFRF, to have access to a list of donors who helped pay for a Ten Commandments monument on state Capitol grounds.

Rapert sponsored legislation to have the monument installed, and when it was first erected in 2017, it was rammed purposely by a vehicle and was destroyed. A replacement monument, surrounded by 3-foot-tall concrete posts, was then installed in 2018 in the same spot.

Shortly thereafter, FFRF joined a coalition of freethinking groups (including the American Humanist Association, the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers and several individuals) in suing Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, who allowed the installation to occur. (The defendant is now John Thurston, the current secretary of state.) The ACLU of Arkansas also filed its own lawsuit.

Rapert then took part in a videotaped deposition regarding the case, but didn’t want it going public (allegedly for fear of his words being taken out of context). He also refused to offer any financial documents regarding who funded the monument or how much was raised. So, on Sept. 8, Rapert had to explain to the judge why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for refusing to cooperate.

At that hearing, the attorney for the American History and Heritage Foundation (AHHF, which Rapert formed to fund the monument) agreed to provide most of the materials FFRF and the other groups requested. AHHF was required to provide documents to the plaintiff’s attorney Gerry Schulze within 10 days and Schulze was to report back to the court if the documents produced were unsatisfactory.

The judge said a status hearing would be held sometime before the end of October.