The Washington, D.C., Christian group Faith and Action is trying to figure out how someone knocked over an 850-pound monument to the Ten Commandments outside its headquarters across from the Supreme Court building.
“Whoever did this was very serious and very focused on making sure the Ten Commandments could no longer be seen or read,” Faith and Action program chief Peggy Nienaber said in a statement on the group’s website. “It was obviously intentional. This was no random act. It was well planned and well done.”
The vandalism took place sometime over the weekend, on a block guarded by the D.C. Metro police and the U.S. Capitol Police. A Supreme Court guardhouse that’s staffed around the clock is nearby, according to the Washington Times.
“We’re confounded, absolutely mystified, how a collection of people could get away with this kind of damage,” Faith and Action leader Rob Schenck told the Times. “The Ten Commandments is something that unites people. It’s disappointing to say the least. Heartbreaking — that’s the word I used with my staff.”
Toppling the monument must not have been easy. It stood on a concrete base, held in place by a steel reinforcement bar. When it was first put up, the operation required an eight-man crew and heavy-lifting equipment, Schenck told the Times.
Schenck said the architect’s engineer told him it would have taken “herculean” strength to bend the steel rod and topple the monument.
And in-ground light that shines on the monument at night was also removed.
The monument has been outside the evangelical group’s headquarters since 2006, according to the Washington Times. It was originally on the grounds of a high school in Ohio, but was forced out by a federal court order in 2002 that removed three other Ten Commandments monuments from the Adams County/Ohio Valley School District.
Legal challenges followed it to the District, along with red-tape hassles. Because yards on Capitol Hill are considered public lands, a permit was required to erect the monument, according to the Faith and Action website.
The Area Neighborhood Commission denied the permit at first because “there were federal employees across the street at the Supreme Court and in the U.S. Capitol that might be offended by the Ten Commandments,” the website states.
Faith and Action is trying to figure out how to get the Commandments back up safely.
“Now we know it can be bent over, we have to figure out a way to strengthen its structure,” Schenck said on the website. “We’re also concerned if we unbend the rod in the middle, it may crack the monument, and that monument has a lot of significance.”
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