A minister is calling on D.C. police to investigate as a hate crime the toppling of a Ten Commandments statue outside the headquarters of an evangelical Christian group, but the group's leaders said Tuesday they would be content if the person or people responsible just turned themselves in.
Until last weekend, the 850-pound granite sculpture stood in front of the headquarters of Faith and Action, facing the U.S. Supreme Court across the street.
On Tuesday, the 3-by-3-foot monument remained tipped forward, its face inches from the ground and the commandments unreadable.
"This is not just an attack of the monument, this is an attack on what the Ten Commandments represent," said the Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. "I'm asking police to investigate this as a hate crime."
D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said Tuesday that police were investigating a damage to property report, but "if more information becomes available during the investigation, we will take the appropriate action."
According to last year's annual report for D.C. police, a hate crime is defined as "a criminal act that demonstrates an accused's prejudice" against any one of a number of protected classes that include religion.
The Rev. Rob Schenck, head of Faith and Action, promised that he and his organization would not press charges against the culprit, provided they sit down with the Christian group to discuss their motive and listen to the group's reason for displaying the commandments.
"You have helped us in our mission," Mr. Schenck said Tuesday, as he spoke outside the group's headquarters. "You prove our point that we all violate the Ten Commandments. It's clear whoever damaged this display wanted to silence" those religious directives.
Mr. Schenck said his organization is in the process of reviewing how best to proceed to restore the monument. He estimated repairs could cost as much as $10,000 and take weeks.
The Rev. Kenneth Johnson was at the Faith and Action headquarters Tuesday and said he remembered helping to erect the monument in 2006. Mr. Johnson said it took seven people to maneuver the monument into the ground and likely took six or eight people to shove over the stone.
Mr. Schenck said neighbors did not hear any noises Saturday when authorities suspect the vandalism occurred nor were there any other signs of damage to the organization's property.
"This is a very heavily policed neighborhood and high-security zone," Mr. Schenck said, adding that while he was frustrated no one saw the vandals, "it was raining, it was dark."
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