Man who rammed car into Ten Commandments monument says it violated separation of church and state mandate
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CNN) — The man accused of ramming a car into the newly erected Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Arkansas state Capitol Wednesday posted a video to Facebook shortly before the incident, saying he was doing it because it was a violation of the separation of church and state.
Michael Tate Reed, 32, then streamed to Facebook Live the moment he drove his 2016 Dodge Dart over the statehouse lawn and crashed into the monument. The Arkansas secretary of state’s office confirmed to CNN the video shows Reed driving into the monument.
As music plays inside the car, the headlights illuminate the grass and then the large stone slab — which was put in place Tuesday afternoon — with the statehouse lit in the background. The vehicle speeds toward the monument and crashes into it, and the video stops.
The 6-foot tall stone monument was knocked off of its base and broke into at least three sections, with some of the pieces crumbling.
Reed, 32, was immediately arrested by Capitol police, according to Chris Powell, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state.
He faces charges of defacing an object of public interest, criminal mischief in the first degree and criminal trespass, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office said.
Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert held a news conference Wednesday afternoon, addressing the hatred behind the destruction of the monument and announcing that a replacement monument has already been ordered.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee joked in a tweet that an “idiot” had broken all Ten Commandments at the same time.
The monument was dedicated Tuesday, following two years of controversy and debate. It was originally authorized in 2015 in the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, which defined the religious laws as “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas.”
Rapert, a primary sponsor of the legislation, praised its installation to reporters Tuesday.
“We’re just very grateful to have this up and see the law fulfilled,” he said. “We have a beautiful Capitol grounds, but we did not have a monument that actually honored the historical moral foundation of law.”
But not everyone was pleased about the monument.
“I’m appalled that they’ve actually gone through with it,” LeeWood Thomas of the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers told CNN affiliate KARK-TV. “To see elected government officials go through with the erection of a religious monument on our Capitol lawn is appalling.”
The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act cites a 2005 Supreme Court decision from Texas that Ten Commandments monuments on state grounds were not a violation of the First Amendment.
Powell told CNN on Tuesday the secretary of state’s office set up a hotline for comments on the display, with 142 for the monument and 65 against it.