The granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sparked controversy since its installationon the Oklahoma Capitol grounds was removed late Monday and will be transported to a private conservative think tank for storage.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in June that the monument's display violated a constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support a "system of religion,"
A contractor the state hired began removing the monument shortly after 10:30 p.m. The works comes after the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in June that the display violates a state constitutional prohibition on the use of public property to support "any sect, church, denomination or system of religion."
The state is paying the contractor about $4,700 to remove the monument and take it to the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs' offices a few blocks away, Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman John Estus said.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol had increased security around the monument earlier Monday, and barriers were erected to keep visitors from getting close to it. Estus said the decision to remove the monument under the cover of darkness was made to avoid disturbing workers at the Capitol and to keep protesters from demonstrating while heavy equipment was being used to detach the two-ton monument from its base.
"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," Estus said. "The Highway Patrol was also very concerned that having it in the middle of the day could lead to having demonstrations of some kind."
The original monument was smashed into pieces last year when a 29-year-old from Roland drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it.
"He claimed he got out of his car, urinated on the monument, and then ran over it and destroyed it," said Secret Service agent David Allison in Oklahoma City at the time of the incident. "He said Satan told him to do it, and that he was a Satanist."
Michael Tate Reed Jr. was arrested the next day and admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, and formal charges were never filed. A new monument was erected in January.