The destruction of a Ten Commandments monument placed on State Capitol grounds in Arkansas has received mixed response. Some members of the public say their representatives shouldn’t be promoting a specific religion in their capacity as government employees. Others are angry and want the Ten Commandments rebuilt and replaced.
However, as the story came out, it was soon clear that the individual who had rammed his vehicle into the monument had an unusual history with the Ten Commandments. Michael Tate Reed describes himself as a Christian who supports separation of Church and State, and it turns out he’s done this before.
After Michael Tate Reed destroyed another Ten Commandments monument, in the same manner, on the Capitol grounds in Oklahoma three years ago, Tulsa World reported that he had written a letter that revealed the connections between his mental illness (diagnosed schizoaffective disorder) and the crime.
Specifically, the letter outlined Reed’s thoughts and actions leading up to the vandalism, including
“The voice told me the cars were all carrying meat that was infected with the spirit of Michael Jackson and it was a killer virus.”
He further speaks of his arrest and questioning over a threat to the then-President, Barack Obama, and of generally worsening mental health leading up to the incident.
Reed was released from hospitalization following the first Ten Commandment monument’s destruction on the condition of continued treatment.
Despite the suspect’s history of mental illness and his own professed Christianity, Arkansas politicians spoke out this week to label the offense as a hater of God and Christianity, with former Governor Mike Huckabee even referring to him as an “idiot.”
Tweeting an Arkansas Online article that included information about Reed’s long battle with mental illness, Huckabee declared as follows.
“Some idiot in my home state broke all 10 commandments at the same time.”
Senator Jason Rapert, also of Arkansas, tweeted about the incident too, calling Reed a “vile thug,” and referring to the destruction of the monument as a hate crime.
Many followers chimed in to remind Rapert that the suspect’s motives appeared not to be anti-Christian, and to call for understanding.
Rapert responded by “liking” and retweeting a tweet from a follower who blamed “hate of God” for the destruction of the Ten Commandments monument.
Rapert also started a GoFundMe page to rebuild and replace the monument.
The GoFundMe page includes text of the state law that covers the placement, including noting that it must be done entirely by private entities, and arranged by the Arkansas Secretary of State. It’s not clear whether Rapert’s efforts to promote and arrange the funding of a new Ten Commandments monument fall outside those guidelines for government involvement.
Though Rapert called the destruction a hate crime, indicating it was an attack on Christianity, he later published a Facebook Live video in which he asserted that the purpose of the Ten Commandments monument was a recognition of origins of written law, rather than of religion.
Another Arkansas politician, Representative Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, also weighed in initially, suggesting that this incident would be useful to promote the placement of many more Ten Commandments monuments on the Capitol grounds. However, when a constituent pointed out the suspect’s background, Collins announced he would leave the subject alone.
Senator Jason Rapert and Governor Mike Huckabee continue to draw criticism on social media for calling the suspect names like ‘thug’ and ‘idiot,’ and for expressing this before motive and guilt are determined by the legal system, but at this time neither has indicated any intent to withdraw the statements or apologize.
The ALCU issued a statement condemning vandalism and committing to the removal of the Ten Commandments monument through legal means.
[Featured Image by Danny Johnston/AP Photo]