Man detained in destruction of disputed statue

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Authorities took a man into custody Friday after they say he admitted driving a car onto the Oklahoma Capitol grounds overnight and into a disputed granite monument of the Ten Commandments, smashing it to pieces.

The man was detained after he showed up at a federal building in Oklahoma City Friday morning, rambling and making derogatory statements about the president, and admitted destroying the monument, said David Allison, an agent with the U.S. Secret Service in Oklahoma City.

“He claimed he got out of his car, urinated on the monument, and then ran over it and destroyed it,” Allison said. “He said Satan told him to do it, and that he was a Satanist.”

The man was turned over to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for questioning, Allison said. A spokesman for the patrol didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking information about the man.

The 6-foot-tall monument was erected in 2012 with the blessing of Oklahoma’s conservative Legislature. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has been suing to have it removed, arguing that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution and could be seen as a state endorsement of a religion.

“We consider this an act of violence against the state of Oklahoma,” said Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze, of Broken Arrow, whose family spent nearly $10,000 having the monument erected.

“We are obviously shocked and dismayed, but we’re not discouraged,” he said, vowing to have it rebuilt.

Gov. Mary Fallin called it an “appalling” act of vandalism and volunteered to help raise private funds to restore it.

The ACLU sued on behalf of a Norman minister and others who allege the monument’s location violates the state constitutional ban on using public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.”

A judge ruled last month that the monument does not violate the Oklahoma Constitution, and ACLU attorneys filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

Ryan Kiesel, the ACLU of Oklahoma’s executive director, said he and his clients are “outraged” that the monument was vandalized.

“To see the Ten Commandments desecrated by vandals is highly offensive to them as people of faith,” Kiesel said.

The monument’s placement has led others to seek their own on the Capitol grounds, including a group that earlier this year unveiled designs for a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan. Other requests have been made from a Hindu leader in Nevada and the satirical Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

 

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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