- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would effectively block a push for a satanic monument at the state Capitol, a move the group behind the display vowed to challenge in court.

The Senate voted 27-5 in favor of a House-backed measure preventing the state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission from considering proposals to build or remove any monuments without legislative authorization. The bill now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and a spokesman said he plans to sign it into law.

Current law allows the panel to consider monument proposals and issue recommendations, even though none can be built without legislative approval. Supporters of the change said it’ll prevent the commission from spending time and money considering proposals that would never win approval from the Legislature.

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“Before anybody spends that money, before anybody does that preparation, it would be nice to know whether the Assembly is actually going to approve,” Republican Sen. Jason Rapert told lawmakers before the vote.

A subcommittee of the commission last month advanced the Satanic Temple’s proposal to build a statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed, angel-winged androgynous creature accompanied by two children smiling at it, on the state Capitol grounds. The panel has tentatively scheduled a public hearing in May on the monument, which was proposed in response to a Ten Commandments display at the Capitol that lawmakers approved in 2015.

Rapert sponsored the law requiring the state to allow the privately-funded Ten Commandments display. The commission has not yet voted on that monument’s design and location.

The measure takes effect immediately once signed into law by Hutchinson. The Satanic Temple has said it doesn’t believe the measure could be applied to its proposal since the group submitted its application before the legislation was approved.

“We expect our hearing to go forward and if it doesn’t it would open the state of Arkansas to expensive litigation they would certainly lose,” said Lucien Greaves, the Temple’s spokesman and co-founder.

So far, no legislation has been approved or even introduced the Satanic Temple’s monument.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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