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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ten Commandments Monument Smashed

(CN) - An Oklahoma man told law enforcement he drove his car into and destroyed the Oklahoma Capitol's controversial Ten Commandments monument because Satan told him to - drawing condemnation even from those who oppose the monument.

Michael Tate Reed Jr., 29, of Roland, was arrested Friday after he threatened to kill President Barack Obama at the Oklahoma City Federal Building, Secret Service Special Agent David Allison said.

Reed later said he was directed by Satan to urinate on and destroy the monument, The Oklahoman news paper reported.

State spokesman John Estus said the monument was knocked over around 9 p.m. Thursday. Reed's vehicle was abandoned there and towed away.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokesman Capt. George Brown said Reed was taken to an Oklahoma County mental facility "for an emergency order of detention and mental evaluation."

Investigators will coordinate with the Oklahoma County District Attorney for possible criminal charges, Brown added.

The 6-foot granite monument was authorized by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2009 and installed three years later through private donations. In August 2013, Dr. Bruce Prescott sued the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission with help from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma for the monument's removal. An Oklahoma County district judge dismissed the lawsuit in September.

Ryan Kiesel, director of ACLU of Oklahoma, condemned the monument's destruction. He said its "desecration by vandals is highly offensive" to his clients "as people of faith."

"The ACLU of Oklahoma and our clients are outraged at this apparent act of vandalism. While we have and continue to seek the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds through the judicial process, the Ten Commandments constitute a strong foundation in our clients' deeply held religious beliefs," Kiesel said.

"Our Oklahoma and Federal Constitutions seek to create a society in which people of all faiths and those of no faith at all can coexist as equals without fear of repression from the government or their neighbors. Whether it is politicians using religion as a political tool or vandals desecrating religious symbols, neither are living up to the full promise of our founding documents."

In January this year, New Jersey-based American Atheists sued the commission in Federal Court , claiming the monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment and the Supremacy Clause of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. The group claims the state is endorsing religion that "indirectly compels participation" by nonbelievers.

That same month, a New York-based satanic group filed an application with the commission to erect a taller, 7-foot statue of a goat-headed, horned Satan on Capitol grounds, claiming the Ten Commandments monument opened the door to their request .

That design depicts Satan as Baphomet - a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a beard - sitting on a pentagram throne with two smiling children standing beside him.

"The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond," Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said at the time. "The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."

The temple condemned the monument's destruction as well, saying it still wants its monument but "only alongside" the Ten Commandments monument.

"If our monument stands at the state Capitol, we want it to complement and contrast the Ten Commandments, with both standing unmolested as a testament to American religious freedom and tolerance," the temple said in a statement Friday.

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