Man arrested for smashing Ten Commandments monument at Arkansas Capitol

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2017 10:24 AM

By Steve Barnes

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - A newly installed Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas state Capitol grounds was toppled on Wednesday, with police saying they have arrested a man they suspect of driving his vehicle into the granite slab.

"It was shattered into a lot of pieces," Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Secretary of State and Capitol Police, said in an interview.

No motive has been released for destroying the monument installed on Tuesday, Powell said. The suspect, identified as Michael Reed, faces three charges, including felony defacing an object of public interest.

An officer patrolling nearby arrested Reed, 32, shortly after the incident occurred, Powell said. No lawyer was listed for the suspect in online jail records.

The 6-foot (1.8-meter) monument was funded with $26,000 in private donations. Legislation permitting it on the Capitol grounds was enacted in 2015, and whether that was appropriate has been debated ever since.

Courts have ordered the removal of similar religious monuments erected in Oklahoma and Alabama.

A civil liberties group pledged a court challenge in Arkansas, saying the monument showed an unconstitutional government preference for a certain religion.

At the installation ceremony in Little Rock on Tuesday, Republican state Senator Jason Rapert noted that the Ten Commandments were chiseled into the portals of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"If it’s good enough for the U.S. Capitol, it’s good enough for the state of Arkansas,” said Rapert, an evangelist who sponsored the legislation permitting the new monument.

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But Rita Sklar, executive director of the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, has said the group is preparing to file a lawsuit over the placement of the monument, which she called a visible symbol of government endorsement of one particular religious belief.

Since Arkansas' Ten Commandments monument act was proposed about two years ago, satanists and other groups have also sought state permission to place markers on Capitol grounds, but their requests were rejected.

(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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