Members of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Committee will be holding three hearings over the next two weeks to finalize changes to a new Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas State Capitol.
This comes less than six months after the state’s previous Ten Commandments monument was destroyed less than 24 hours after its unveiling, when a Van Buren man live-streamed himself driving his car through the monument in the early morning hours last June. This was the second time Michael Reed used his vehicle to destroy a Ten Commandments monument, first doing so at the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2014.
Now, a subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will hold two public hearings to review changes to the base of the new monument, including possible barriers to prevent any future attacks.
State Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) spearheaded the construction of the destroyed monument, and is president of the American History and Heritage Foundation, which donated both the old monument and its replacement.
“Obviously with the damage that was done, they’re simply taking a look at any security modification which I think may include some posts or barriers,” Rapert said. “In light of all that has happened, the American History and Heritage Foundation wanted to make sure that the monument was restored properly, again, this second time.”
Following the two hearings, the full Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will meet on Dec. 12 to finalize any changes to the monument’s base structure. Sen. Rapert says these are the final steps before the new monument is installed on the Capitol grounds.
“The monument itself has been completed now for probably a few months, and everything is just hinged on what they’re going to do with security posts around that monument,” Rapert said. “It’s very sad they’re needed, but we just don’t want somebody to try to replicate the exact same thing.”
Rapert sponsored a bill approving the first monument’s construction that passed the Arkansas Legislature in 2015. Though public comments are allowed at the second hearing of the Commission’s subcommittee on Dec. 7, Sen. Rapert does not expect any obstacles in having the new monument erected.
“The monument has already been approved, so there’s really nothing that changes the monument itself,” Rapert said. “So obviously, if there are public comments, people are always welcome to comment. But the authorization for the monument and the law itself is already in place, so there’s no opportunity to impede the installation of the monument at this point.”
Numerous advocacy groups, including the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, came out against the construction of the previous monument. Sen. Rapert says the American History and Heritage Foundation has received donations specifically for added security measures at the site of the new monument.