LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Efforts to erect a Ten Commandments monument on the Arkansas Capitol grounds cleared a key hurdle Friday when some House members rejected objections that such a display would be unconstitutional.

The bill would allow for a privately funded monument to be placed on the grounds, with its design and location to be approved by the secretary of state.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 upheld a challenge to a similar Texas monument – while striking down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses. The court said the key to whether a display is constitutional hinges on whether there is a religious purpose behind it. A lawsuit challenging a similar monument outside of the Oklahoma state Capitol is pending before that state’s Supreme Court.

Supporters have said the monument would honor the role the commandments have played in the nation’s legal system. Republican Rep. Kim Hammer of Benton, who presented the bill, said the proposal should withstand legal challenges and that there are already other monuments at the Capitol.

“We’re just giving room to another one that has had historical major significance in the establishment and the basis upon which laws were signed,” Hammer said.

After the vote, Hammer said he wasn’t worried that the law would pave the way for other religious monuments to go up on state property, because he said they would also have to get the Legislature’s approval.

In Oklahoma, several non-Christian groups have asked to place their own monuments on the Capitol grounds, including a satanic group, the Satanic Temple, that wants to erect a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard.

A Satanic Temple spokesman, Lucien Greaves, told the Associated Press that the group would seek to erect the same monument on the Arkansas Capitol grounds, if the Ten Commandments bill passes, and that several Arkansas residents have already reached out to donate to the cause.

“We have the mold standing by waiting for just this very situation,” Lucien said.

About 10 members of the public attended the meeting to testify against the bill. They said the display could amount to a state endorsement of religion and would be unconstitutional.

Little Rock attorney Anne Orsi told lawmakers that only three of the Ten Commandments – killing, stealing and lying – are incorporated into state law.

“None of the others exist in our law, so to say we are basing our law on the Ten Commandments is simply not accurate,” Orsi said.

After limiting public testimony to 10 minutes, the Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted 11-3 to advance the bill to the full House.

Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, said after the vote that the display would invite a lawsuit that Arkansas taxpayers would pay to defend.

“The Constitution of the United States clearly indicates we should not establish a religion and that means we should not give preference to any particular religion,” Walker said.

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