WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A one-ton granite monument to the Ten Commandments (search) placed in front of Winston-Salem's City Hall by a lone council member was swiftly removed Tuesday.
The monument violated a policy that councilman Vernon Robinson -- who installed the monument Monday -- had voted for in September, said city spokeswoman Carrie Collins. The policy bans public displays or plaques on city-owned facilities without permission of the city council or manager.
"It had nothing to do with what was on the plaque," Collins said. "It was just that it was in violation of city policy."
Collins also cited safety concerns. "The plaque is in two pieces ... and we didn't want somebody to push it over and hurt somebody."
No protesters were present when the monument was lifted with a backhoe and taken to a Department of Transportation warehouse, Collins said.
The monument was returned to Robinson later in the day, and it turned up Tuesday evening near City Hall, where about 25 people held a candlelight prayer vigil.
The group, including Robinson, marched to a nearby street where the monument sat on a flatbed truck. Participants read aloud the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights, which are inscribed side-by-side on the monument.
Robinson placed the monument in front of City Hall on Monday while it was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. (search) holiday. He said he was inspired by Alabama's ousted chief justice, who placed a similar monument in his court building. Robinson said he paid the $2,000 cost of buying and moving the monument himself.
Mayor Allen Joines called the move divisive.
"Obviously, if you are going to do something like this, this is not the right way to do it," Joines said Monday. "We are working hard to bring the city together. Actions like this tend to push people apart."
At the Winston-Salem City Council meeting later Tuesday, Robinson was unable to get a second council member to support his motion for the city to accept the monument.
After the meeting, Robinson said he would continue to look for a public location to display the marker. He said he's been contacted by individuals and officials in other North Carolina cities who might be open to taking it.
Robinson, who is running for the Republican nomination for Congress, had said he didn't get permission to put up the marker because he didn't know the procedure.
Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore (search) placed a 2-ton Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in 2001 and was ousted last year for refusing to obey a federal court order to remove it. The federal judge found the monument to be an unconstitutional governmental promotion of religion.