A 21-year-old Christian was arrested in Fort Smith, Arkansas after he was caught destroying three statues in a Buddhist temple.
Shawn Michael Israel was nabbed on Sunday at the temple, Wat Lao Santitham, with a hammer and Bible in hand.
Israel told authorities that he was commanded by scripture to destroy the statue, which he referred to as a “false idol.” He said multiple times that he was only following the Ten Commandments and did what God told him to do through scripture. Israel had a Bible with him when officers arrested him.
When asked about the hammer he had, Israel said he used it to destroy the statue, according to police. He went on to say that he had tried to destroy the statue the previous day, but the tool he was using broke as he demolished the statue’s head. He returned on Sunday to smash the body of the statue with the hammer, police said.
The total damage comes out to approximately $10,000. There’s already a GoFundMe page to raise money to rebuild the statues.
The Fort Smith Police rightly called this an act of “religious intolerance.” Israel has a May 11 court date. He’s been charged with “first degree criminal mischief greater than $5,000 but less than $25,000, a class C felony.”
Arkansas doesn’t have hate crime laws, though this vandalism could also be seen as an attack on a minority faith.
In 2017, a man was also arrested for vandalizing a Ten Commandments monument outside the State Capitol. He was later acquitted, though, on account of his “mental disease.” There’s no indication that Israel suffers from a similar disorder.