M. Scott Carter reports on politics, legislation and other issues from the State Capitol.
A monument bearing the Ten Commandments was vandalized and broken in several pieces Thursday night after being struck by a car, the spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services said.
John Estus said officials were notified around 9 p.m. Thursday evening that vandals had driven a vehicle into the monument. Estus said vandals moved a ramp used by workmen to access the grassy area where the monument stood. He said the vehicle was abandoned and the vandals fled on foot.
The monument, which weighed about 2,000 pounds, stood on the north side of the Capitol building, facing Lincoln Boulevard. The monument was donated by state Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, who spent about $10,000 to purchase the structure. In 2012, shortly after it was installed, workmen discovered an error in the inscription on the granite — the word “sabbath” had been misspelled. The error was later corrected.
Friday morning Ritze issued a statement. He said the monument would be rebuilt using private funds.
“While I am appalled that someone would go to such lengths to do violence to our Ten Commandments monument, I am not at all shocked. I am dismayed but not discouraged by this act of violence against the monument,” Ritze said. “This monument represents the values that an overwhelming majority of Oklahomans hold close. We are not going to be bullied; the monument will be repaired and replaced. I trust our law enforcement agencies will quickly apprehend the person or persons responsible for this crime, and those people will be held accountable.”
The monument is the subject of a lawsuit by the Oklahoma branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. On Friday morning, ACLU Executive Direcxtor Ryan Kiesel issued a statement condemning the vandalism.
“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. “To see the Ten Commandments desecrated by vandals is highly offensive to them as people of faith. 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 repressions 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.”
This spring, representatives of the Satanic Temple sought to place their own monument on the Capitol grounds. That request was denied.
UPDATE: The U.S. Secret Service has detained a man who, they say, confessed to destroying the monument. Secret Service officials said the man has been turned over to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The man was not identified.