The controversy surrounding the installation of religious monuments on government properties around the country isn’t going to fade away anytime soon.
While our Constitution provides our citizens with a right to practice whatever religion they choose, as long as no harm is done to others as a result, one of the more heated battles over our nation’s faith has been in the assumed proposition of a separation between church and state. The term “separation of church and state” does not actually appear in the Constitution, (there’s one for the trivia nerds), but it is an idea that has been interpolate from the works of Thomas Jefferson and subsequent Supreme Court decisions that the freedom to practice religion shall not be impaired by any single faith being allowed providence over another in the halls of government.
There are some tricky semantics involved when we debate exactly what our founding fathers meant, or how exactly they believed that they could keep these two ideas apart, and that has fomented into a rigorous debate in modern America.
A microcosm of this much broader legal battle has come to us in the form of religious monuments being donated to, or built by, municipalities across the nation – particularly in the form of the Ten Commandments – and erected on government property. Whether it’s a DMV, a state-run Library, or a country clerks office, the placement of Christian religious symbolism has come under heavy fire. Legal battles have been waged, protests have been incited, and opposing religions have even used these laws to install their own, tasteless statutes meant to mock the Ten Commandments with legal protections.
And then there’s Michael Tate Reed of Arkansas, who has twice taken matters into his own hands by crashing his truck into similar monuments nearly 340 miles away.
“A man yelled ‘Freedom!’ as he crashed his vehicle into Arkansas’ new Ten Commandments monument early Wednesday, nearly three years after he was arrested in the destruction of Oklahoma’s monument at its state Capitol, authorities said.
“The privately funded Arkansas monument had been in place outside the state Capitol in Little Rock for less than 24 hours before it was knocked from its plinth and smashed to pieces.
“Michael Tate Reed, 32, of Van Buren, Arkansas, was booked in the Pulaski County jail shortly after 7:30 a.m. on preliminary charges of defacing objects of public interest, criminal trespass and first-degree criminal mischief. An arrest report lists his occupation as ‘unemployed/disabled.’
“Authorities did not know whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf, and a video arraignment was set for Thursday morning, a Pulaski County sheriff’s spokesman said.
“Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Chris Powell said officials believe a Facebook Live video posted on a Michael Reed’s Facebook account that depicted the destruction is authentic.”
Tate’s alleged mental illness has not yet been publicly identified.
The destruction of this monument has once again ignited a national debate over the “separation of church and state”, and the resemblance of our nation’s founding principles to those held in the Christian faith.