Man destroys Jesus statues at Sacred Heart Church

CHARLESTON—Sacred Heart Church was the target of one or more vandals who smashed the heads off of two statues of Jesus.

A suspect was arrested just down the road from the church, located at 888 King St., after he was discovered covered in concrete dust and toting a sledgehammer in his backpack.

Charles Short, 38, told police he defaced the large concrete statue because “the second or first commandment states to not make an image of a male or female to be on display to the public,” according to police reports.

Sister Pamela Smith, SSCM, secretary for education at the Diocese of Charleston, said the suspect was probably referring to Exodus 20, 4-5, which states “You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or serve them.”

She said some religions interpret that commandment very strictly and believe people should not make any representations of God. Catholics and most Protestant religions allow for statues as reminders of God and Jesus.

“We don’t worship the idol, we don’t worship the statue, it just serves as a reminder of who God is,” Sister Pam said. “Especially the Sacred Heart, which is to remind us of the mercy of Christ.”

Short was arrested for the destruction of the concrete statue representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which stands 6 feet and has been on the church grounds for 20 years.

Short is also being questioned in the vandalism of a second statue, which is about 4 feet tall, made of marble, and depicts Jesus with his hand on the head of a child.

Fred McKay, principal of Charleston Catholic, the parish school, said he discovered the marble statue with both heads demolished on Friday morning and called police. Then over the weekend, the second statue was vandalized.

In that incident, residents flagged down a patrol officer and pointed to a man walking on nearby Huger Street, stating that he had just knocked the statue’s head off, the report stated.

When confronted, the suspect admitted to the crime and was charged with malicious injury to real property. On Tuesday, that charge was upgraded to reflect the seriousness and high monetary value of the property damage.

A representative for a local monument shop estimated the cost of the marble statue at $7,000 and the concrete one at $4,000, McKay said.

Parishioners and visitors said the sight of the headless statues was disturbing.

“There’s no way to move them,” McKay said. “But we covered them with cloth at the request of Father [Dennis] Willey.”

Father Willey, pastor, is out of the country. McKay said they informed him of the incident and have been in contact via email.