PHOENIX (Reuters) - A 22-year-old Arizona man calling himself "Dark Lord" has been arrested for allegedly burning a Bible and urinating on it outside a Christian-oriented homeless shelter in northern Arizona, police said on Friday.
Eric Minerault was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center late on Thursday on suspicion of one count of unlawful symbol burning stemming from the incident at the Gospel Rescue Mission, Prescott police spokesman Lieutenant Ken Morley said in a written statement.
Police were called to the scene at about 9 p.m. by a mission representative reporting that someone was burning something on the mission’s front steps, Morley said.
Officers found Minerault standing on the steps, with a burned and wet Bible on the ground near him. He quickly admitted to the act.
He told officers the mission was selected because he believed it was a place of Christian worship and he was “cursing the Christians,” police said.
Asked why, officers reported that he said because he was the “Dark Lord.” Minerault was clad in black and was wearing a black-and-red robe and a pentagram necklace.
He remained at the detention center on Friday afternoon on the misdemeanor charge, sheriff’s officials said.
Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the arrest raises questions as to whether Minerault’s First Amendment freedom of speech rights were violated.
But Pochoda, who was not familiar with the charge cited, said courts have upheld laws that bar symbols like crosses from being burned.
Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Trott