A polished granite monument, the size of a tombstone, bearing the Old testament's Ten commandments stands on Lincolnville Beach in Maine on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. Town officials later determined the stone was not on public property. Credit: Courtesy of Kelley Dionne

A day after a stone monument carved with all Ten Commandments appeared on a private portion of Lincolnville Beach, the man responsible for placing it there is already thinking of removing it.

Abusive online comments swirling around the stone are upsetting his wife and two daughters, said Rick McLaughlin, who placed the monument on his own property, adjoining the public beach.

They’re bad enough to make him consider moving it elsewhere, he said.

McLaughlin owns McLaughlin’s Lobster Shack, just west of the public beach. He dragged the knee-high stone into place on early Monday morning.

“All I wanted to do was glorify God on the beach he created,” said McLaughlin, “I didn’t think it was out of line on my own property.”

Several people called the Lincolnville town offices Monday morning, concerned that there was a religious monument on the public beach.

Kelly Dionne of Thorndike was among those surprised to find the upright slab on the sand.

“I was taking a day to come down here with my kids,” Dionne said, “and it looks like a tombstone.”

However, after a short investigation, Town Administrator David Kinney determined the polished stone was not on town property.

“Portions of the beach are town owned, and some are private,” Kinney said. “It’s well onto his property.”

By Monday afternoon, Kinney said he considered the matter closed.

On Tuesday morning McLaughlin said he hadn’t received any angry phonecalls — either at his house or business — but mean-spirited comments on social media, as well as on two Bangor Daily News articles, were enough to cause distress in his family.

“I’ll probably remove the stone,” he said, “Probably in a day or two.”

By midday on Tuesday, BDN stories about the Ten Commandments stone posted to social media had garnered nearly 1,000 Facebook comments. Many were unflattering toward McLaughlin and his family-owned business.

Some referred to the monument as garbage and offensive. One commenter suggested taking a sledge hammer to it.

Dennis Hammac of Guilford supports McLaughlin’s monument and was also upset by many of the comments on the BDN website. Unable to fire back once the BDN closed comments on the stories due to personal attacks, he picked up the phone and called McLaughlin’s lobster shack, getting him on the phone.

“I called to thank him for standing up for God,” Hammac said.

He said he sees it as a free speech issue.

“If you want to put the Ten Commandments — or verses from the Quran — on your own property, you should have the right to do that,” Hammac said. “This is America. We have that freedom.”

Hammac is a member of the conservative political group Patriots With Attitude and said he was seriously thinking of organizing a flag-waving rally at the beach to support McLaughlin and his monument.

“The Ten Commandments should be everywhere,” Hammac said.

McLaughlin’s decision to place the stone was not impulsive. Efforts began almost a year ago when he ordered his monument. Mclaughlin had intended to install it in the spring but the granite came from India and supply chain issues delayed its delivery.

All told, McLaughlin said he spent $3,000 on the solemn marker, which is mounted on heavy, wooden skids, rendering it somewhat portable.

Though disappointed, McLaughlin said he thinks he understands why some people are upset.

“A lot of people consider the Ten Commandments to be a baseball bat to hit people over the head with,” he said.

But McLaughlin has a different, more hopeful take on the Old Testament laws brought down by Moses.

“They’re not a baseball bat. None of us can keep them. That’s why Jesus came to save us,” he said. “Me too. I’m a big sinner, from way back.”

However, McLaughlin reckons that subtle difference is lost in the online feeding frenzy. He wishes it didn’t have to be that way and said he’ll make a final decision about removing the stone after talking about it with his family and neighbors.

“I certainly didn’t mean to upset them,” McLaughlin said.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.