Yeah, the Ten Commandments were smashed to pieces — but don't blame Moses this time

OK, you win, Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor earns "Tweet of the Day" honors with this gem:

As my GetReligion colleague Mark Kellner put it, "Gotta admit, THIS is a humorous reaction to a MONUMENTAL fail."

(Insert groans here.)

If you need a refresher on the first time the tablets were smashed to pieces, check out Exodus 32:19.

But if you're curious about what sparked Huckabee's tweet, here's the rundown from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's website:

A 6-foot-tall stone Ten Commandments monument installed Tuesday on the Arkansas Capitol grounds was toppled less than 24 hours later after a 32-year-old Arkansas man drove a vehicle into the statue, apparently while streaming the act live on Facebook, officials said.
Chris Powell, a spokesman with the secretary of state's office, said he was called early Wednesday and told a man drove a vehicle through the monument. That driver — identified in an arrest report as Michael Tate Reed of Van Buren — was arrested by Capitol police shortly after, Powell said. News reports indicate Reed was previously accused of destroying a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma.
The Arkansas arrest report said an officer around 4:45 a.m. spotted a dark-colored vehicle "start from a stopped position and ram the Ten Commandments monument."
"I immediately exited my vehicle and placed the subject in custody," Cpl. Chad Durham wrote, noting Reed was first taken to a local hospital before being booked into the Pulaski County jail.
The arrest report for Reed listed "unemployed/disabled" under occupation.
Reed, who was lodged in the jail shortly after 7:30 a.m., faces charges of defacing objects of public respect, trespassing on Capitol grounds and first-degree criminal mischief, according to the report. He was being held without bail pending an initial court appearance.

A little deeper in the story, the Arkansas paper does a really nice job of quoting the suspect's own words:

In another Facebook video posted early Wednesday, a man who called himself Michael Reed described his beliefs in both Jesus and the separation of church and state. He spoke from a seat in a 2016 Dodge Dart.
“I'm a firm believer that part of salvation is that we not only have faith in Jesus Christ but we obey the commands of God, and that we confess Jesus as Lord,” he said in the video. “But one thing I do not support is the violation of our Constitutional right to have the freedom that's guaranteed to us, that guarantees us the separation of church and state.”
There's “no one religion” that the government should represent, the man said.
In a different video posted earlier, the same man said he had to “confess my sin.”
“I made a promise that I very much intended to keep that I would go get help if things didn't happen the way I thought they would,” he said.
“Now my plans is this,” he later added. “I'm taking a sabbatical. I'm going to go, I'm leaving this place, and I'm gonna see God more and just trust in him.”

Readers can make their own judgments about the suspect's coherence and state of mind, but the Democrat-Gazette does its job by reporting what he said.

Originally — before the monument was destroyed — I had planned for this post to focus on the bigger picture. That would be the debate in Arkansas over the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments display. 

NPR had a pretty thorough, pretty evenhanded report on that issue. NPR quotes both sides and cites the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 Van Orden v. Perry decision. That's terrific.

However, I wish NPR had delved just a little deeper into the arguments over history vs. religion on such cases. 

A 2015 Los Angeles Times story — written amid a similar controversy in Oklahoma — contained some excellent context, as we noted at the time:

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up the topic as well and in 2005 issued two rulings with pointedly different conclusions.
The first decision, in McCreary County vs. ACLU, concerned displays of the Ten Commandments in Kentucky courthouses. Other documents were displayed as well, such as the "endowed by their creator" passage from the Declaration of Independence. The court barred the displays, saying they clearly promoted the commandments, rather than educated viewers about historical documents.
The second decision, in Van Orden vs. Perry, found that a 6-foot-tall monument at the Texas Capitol inscribed with the Ten Commandments was constitutional.
In that case, the court said the monument, erected decades earlier, was one of 21 historical markers and 17 monuments on the vast lawns of the Capitol and, in that context, more historical than religious.

Such background is crucial to helping news consumers understand the legal issues involved.

Of course, given the big twist in the story early this morning, that kind of debate probably will have to wait for another day.

 

 

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