(Photo: The Christian Post)
WASHINGTON – The leader of a Christian organization that had a Ten Commandments display vandalized has offered to not press charges against the unknown perpetrators.
The Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith And Action, announced Tuesday afternoon at a press conference that he would not file charges provided the perpetrators agree to meet with him.
"If you will come forward and confess your crime we will not press charges or pursue prosecution against you," said Schenck.
"Instead, we invite the perpetrators of this act back to this house to sit down with us to a meal and tell us why you did this. And we will listen to what you say."
Addressing the unknown perpetrators, Schenck stated that "you have actually helped us in our mission. You prove our point that we all violate the Ten Commandments."
"We ask only that you reciprocate and listen to us on why we feel this display is so important in this place and at this time," said Schenck.
At a press conference, Schenck read from a document where he laid out his conditions to the invitation to dinner and discussion, signing it before those gathered in front of the group's headquarters.
Schenck told The Christian Post that he was inspired to send out this proposal to the unknown perpetrators when assessing how all have broken the Ten Commandments.
"When you think about the meaning of the Commandments, they are meant to bring us an awareness of our own sinful nature," said Schenck.
"If we deface and violate the Commandments and we've received forgiveness from God in Christ for that violation, how can we not extend the same to the perpetrators of this act."
The Decalogue display was one of seven monuments designed with its specific décor by the People's Monument Company. The vandalized display faced the back of the Supreme Court building.
Last weekend an unknown perpetrator or perpetrators vandalized the 850-pound monument, which had been placed on a 30-inch deep footer.
The granite structure had stood in front of the Honorable William J. Ostrowski House, headquarters of Faith And Action, since 2006.
The unknown individual or individuals pushed the Ten Commandments display forward and placed a "For Rent" sign with an arrow pointing toward the Ostrowski House.
Peggy Nienaber, Chief of Program for Faith and Action, discovered the vandalism act after receiving a call from a local pastor who called her having seen the Decalogue toppled over.
"I knew at that time that the front garden had been vandalized. I told him not to touch anything and that I was on my way," said Nienaber at the press conference.
"I notified the metropolitan police. ... The officers also checked the building and the back garden. They found no damage."
In addition to Schenck and Nienaber, other speakers at the press conference included the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, president of the Christian Defense Coalition; the Rev. Kenneth Johnson, president of the Adams County for the Ten Commandments Committee; and Pastor L. Frazier White II of Faith Tabernacle in Washington, D.C.
Schenck told CP that while there was no official timeline for the repairs, they did intend to have the display repaired and had launched a donations website that morning.
"I'd like to think that the Ten Commandments contribute to the betterment of society and culture," said Schenck, who spoke of the display's initial response seven years ago.
"We did have some objections when we first installed the monument in 2006. We received some critical phone calls, people who claimed that we were embarrassing the neighborhood or offending some of our neighbors."
Faith And Action leaders seek to have the vandalism case investigated as a hate crime, as they see it as an attack on "an identified symbol of faith" respected by Christians, Jews and Muslims.
In addition to repairing the Decalogue display, Faith And Action leaders also hope to install security measures including lights and security cameras.