NEW YORK -- God's word received a smiting on Monday when a granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments was deliberately removed from the grounds of the Oklahoma state capital. The large slab was toppled by contractors around 11pm following an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision in June that ruled the display violated the state's constitution that prohibits the promotion of a religion on public grounds.
Work to remove the monument started under cover of darkness, a move John Estus, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said was to deter protesters while heavy equipment was used to dig up the shrine. "We wanted it to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doing it at night gave us the best opportunity to do that," he said.
The monument, put in place by the Republican-led Legislature in 2009, had been a lightning rod for controversy, with defenders of the constitution complaining it violated state law.
After it was removed, Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister from Norman, who lodged the original legal complaint, welcomed its removal. "Frankly, I'm glad we finally got the governor and attorney general to agree to let the monument be moved to private property, which is where I believe it's most appropriate," he said. "I'm not opposed to the Ten Commandments, I'm just opposed to it being on public property."
Following the Christian monument’s erection, other religious groups demanded their own tributes be placed on public grounds, including a 7-foot-tall statue of Satan via a Satanic church in New York, and an image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster from the atheistic "church" of the same name.
Republican Mike Reynolds, a former state Representative who voted in favour of the slab, watched as it was trawled off into the night. "This is a historical event," he said. "Now we know we have to change the Constitution. It would be good to get rid of some of the Supreme Court justices, too."
The current legislature has threatened to introduce a resolution to the state's constitution that would remove the article of that prevents public money or property being used for religious iconography. The monument will be housed at the headquarters of a nearby conservative think-tank for safekeeping. At the time of publication, no official comment had been received from the Heavens on the slab's removal.