Destruction of Arkansas’ Ten Commandments monument places spotlight on separation of church and state – Los Angeles Times

The 6-foot-tall stone monument engraved with the Ten Commandments — a capstone of sorts to years of debate in Arkansas over the separation of church and state – was erected with little pomp on the lush grounds of the state Capitol. Less than 24 hours later, the monument came crumbling down after a Dodge Dart plowed into it.

On Wednesday, as maintenance crews cleaned up the debris, many summed up the incident as the latest chapter in an ongoing nationwide battle over the separation of church and state. Across the country — at state legislatures, city council hearings and school board meetings — questions about whether the Ten Commandments should be displayed have led to legal battles and stark debate over the role of religion in public life and interpretations of the 1st Amendment.

The violence was captured in a Facebook Live video posted by the man charged with ramming the monument, Michael Tate Reed. In the video, Reed can be heard yelling, “Oh, my goodness — freedom!” as his car slams into the 6,000 pound granite slab.

“This really was a horrifying surprise,” said Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, who in 2015 sponsored the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, which called for erecting the monument on the Capitol grounds in Little Rock. “It’s truly an act of violence toward the people of Arkansas.”

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a proponent of the monument’s placement, voiced dismay on Twitter over its destruction, saying that “resorting to property destruction is never the answer to a policy disagreement. Very troubling that a Capitol monument is destroyed.”

Moments after the incident early Wednesday, police arrested Reed, 32, and booked him into Pulaski County Jail. He was being held on preliminary charges of defacing objects of public interest, criminal trespassing and first-degree criminal mischief.

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