WASHINGTON (AP) — A stone monument of the Ten Commandments that sits on a street behind the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington and was the subject of controversy in the past has been toppled by vandals.

The 3-foot-by-3-foot( 1 meter by 1 meter) granite monument weighs 850 pounds (385 kilograms) and sits out front of the headquarters of Faith and Action, a Christian outreach ministry. The group installed the tablets in a garden outside its offices in 2006, and the group's president said the tablets were angled so that justices arriving at the high court would see them.

Courts nationwide have wrestled with public displays of the Ten Commandments. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on two such cases: In one, the justices upheld a monument on the grounds of the Texas capitol in Austin. In the other, they declared unconstitutional Ten Commandments displays at Kentucky courthouses. Proponents of separation between church and state oppose public displays of religious objects.

The Rev. Robert Schenck, who heads the ministry organization, said the damage to the monument happened sometime between Friday night and Saturday night. A minister who works in the area alerted the group to the damage around 9 p.m. Saturday.

The monument had been pushed over so that the words of the Ten Commandments are now face down. Vandals bent a steel rod that secures the monument to a thick concrete base to an almost 90 degree angle. The monument itself is not damaged, Schenck said.

"Whoever did this was determined to get it done because it's not something you could easily do," Schenck said, adding that the vandals also installed a "For Rent" yard sign by the monument and that the vandalism was reported to police.

Officer Anthony Clay, a Metropolitan Police Department spokesman, said Monday that the case remains open.

Schenck said he did not know how much it would cost to bring the tablets upright, but the organization plans to reinforce the monument and install a security camera that monitors the area. He said they also plan to ask a neighboring organization and the U.S. Supreme Court for their security camera footage during the time when the monument was vandalized.


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