A granite monument of the Ten Commandments that has sparked controversy since its installation on the Oklahoma Capitol grounds was being removed Monday and will be transported to a private conservative think tank for storage. In June, the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided 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 about $4,700 to have the monument removed. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol increased security around the monument prior to its removal, which took place under cover of darkness to keep protesters from demonstrating while heavy equipment was being used to detach the two-ton monument from its base.
Originally authorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2009, the privately funded monument has been a lightning rod for controversy since it was erected in 2012, prompting a lawsuit from Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister who complained it violated the state constitution. "I'm not opposed to the Ten Commandments," he said Monday. "I'm just opposed to it being on public property." The original monument was smashed into pieces last year when someone drove a car across the Capitol lawn and crashed into it. A new monument was erected in January. Conservative legislators are hoping to change the state constitution to allow the monument to be reinstated. (Read more separation of church and state stories.)