The Ten Commandments monument that caused controversy in Oklahoma has been surreptitiously removed from the state capitol grounds under cover of darkness.

At 10:30 p.m. Monday, using a heavy-duty crane and cutting tools, workers from a private contractor removed and transported the tablet-style monument to the offices of the Council of Public Affairs. The Daily Oklahoman reported that the 6-foot high, 4,800-pound tablets would be installed there.

 “We wanted it to be done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and doing it at night gave us the best opportunity to do that,” Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman John Estus said. “The Highway Patrol was also very concerned that having it in the middle of the day could lead to having demonstrations of some kind.”

Barriers that prevented visitors from approaching the monument had been erected Monday morning by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The state Supreme Court in June ruled 7-2 that the monument violated a state constitution provision banning use of state property for religious purposes. A judge ordered its removal by Oct. 12.

The dispute involving the monument stretches back several years. Opponents demanded that their own religious statues be erected on public property, including a satanic church, an animal activist group and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Even some Christian leaders have come out in opposition to the statue, disagreeing with Christian representations on government property. In fact, a lawsuit to have the monument removed was filed by Bruce Prescott, who is a Baptist minister.

“Frankly, I’m glad we finally got the governor and attorney general to agree to let the monument be moved to private property, which is where I believe it’s most appropriate,” Prescott said. “I’m not opposed to the Ten Commandments. The first sermon I ever preached was on the Ten Commandments. I’m just opposed to it being on public property.”

But former state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, said the monument’s removal should be a wake-up call for voters.

“I think that today is an excellent day to expose the hypocrisy in our state government, whether it’s the Supreme Court, the attorney general or the governor’s office making bad decisions, it’s time for citizens to start looking for ways to change the process,” he said.

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