Church and State

Satanic Temple unveils giant ‘Baphomet’ statue at Arkansas State Capitol

In a rally at the Arkansas State Capitol this Thursday, religious conservatives got a lesson in what happens when they try to inject their influence in the public sphere.

In response to Arkansas lawmakers who approved the placement of a monument to the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds, The Satanic Temple showed up with dozens of people and unveiled their own monument — an 8-foot tall Baphomet statue.

The statue, meant as a First Amendment protest against the approval of a religious symbol on government property, will only be allowed to be displayed temporarily. But Temple members argue that it should be just as permanent as the Ten Commandments monument.

“If you’re going to have one religious monument up then it should be open to others, and if you don’t agree with that then let’s just not have any at all,” said Ivy Forrester of the Arkansas Satanic Temple.

As the Associated Press points out, The Ten Commandments monument was sponsored by Republican Sen. Jason Rapert and installed in 2017 with little fanfare. The monument made headlines when a man crashed into it with his car, smashing it to pieces. The same man also destroyed a Ten Commandments monument outside of Oklahoma’s state Capitol — where the Temple had also tried to install its Baphomet statue. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ultimately ruled the Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional and it was taken down.

According to Temple spokesman and co-founder Lucien Greaves, the rally and unveiling of the statue was “intended to be an inclusive gathering where The Satanic Temple will be celebrating pluralism along with Christian and secular speakers.”

“People of many faiths will come together at the Capitol to reject the Arkansas State Legislature’s efforts to privilege one religion over others,” Greaves said.

In a statement posted to Facebook, Arkansas state Senator Jason Rapert said that due process “was followed to the letter” in the run-up to the monument’s installment. He also referred to the Temple as an “extremist group.”

“The extremist group that has targeted our state again today came and spoke against the monument during our public meetings and sought for a sponsor of a bill to erect their profane statue – they never had any takers,” Rapert’s statement read. “The process was open and they failed to convince any of the 135 legislators to sponsor a bill to carry out their idea.”

The rally was peaceful and was attended by around 150 people. A smaller group of counter protesters hoisted bibles in the air and held signs emblazoned with bible verses. Some were also pictured carrying Confederate flags.

Via Sen. Jason Rapert (Facebook)

The AP reports that the Satanic Temple said it will sue the state for religious discrimination, but when they tried to join a case the ACLU already had pending, the ACLU asked the court to bar the Temple. Whether or not the Temple can join the case still has to be decided on by a judge.

The Satanic Temple’s history of successful trolling against the Religious Right is unprecedented. They’ve put Christians’ “religious freedom” arguments to the test with their “After School Satan” school clubs, they got Arizona Christian lawmakers to ban public prayer, and even had a Satanic-themed coloring book made available for display at an elementary school. All the ST’s strategizing is based around using the Christian drive for religious superiority in the public sphere against them.

Featured image via Twitter

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