Satanists Protest "10 Commandments" Monument
The Satanic Temple temporarily installed an eight-and-a-half-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed-and-winged creature, in front of the Arkansas State Capital recently.
The statue was crowdfunded via Indiegogo, according to Time Magazine.
The installation was intended as a protest against the placement of a monument of the Ten Commandments placed at the capital in Little Rock in 2017.
(A previous version of the Ten Commandments at the Arkansas Capitol lasted less than 24 hours before a man ran it over with a car. The same man had destroyed a similar monument in Oklahoma.)
As NPR reported, to Satanists Baphomet is "a symbol of pluralism, legal equality, tolerance and reconciliation."
As NPR explains.
The Satanic Temple, a national organization with 15 chapters in the U.S. and one in Canada, objects to exclusively Christian religious displays on public property. It argues that public spaces should be free from religious messaging or be opened up to representations of all faiths, including Satanist icons.
Arkansas Republican state Sen. Jason Rapert, who sponsored the bill that approved the placement of the Ten Commandments monument, said that he respected "everyone's" right to free speech under the First Amendment — be he drew the line at the "profane" statue of Baphomet.
"It will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has also argued that the Ten Commandments display is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The Ten Commandments are found in the Jewish Torah and the Christian Old Testament, and are thus a form of religious expression.
Under the first amendment to the US Constitution,
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
The US Supreme Court in the 1878 case of Reynolds v. US established the doctrine of "separation of church and state" as a Constitutional principal.
However, what exactly that separation means has been the subject of considerable debate (and litigation) over the years.
Church and State
The ACLU has brought several lawsuits against the display of the Ten Commandments on public property, leading to a number of court decisions on the issue.
For example, in 1980, the US Supreme ruled that
posting the Ten Commandments on classroom walls is plainly religious in nature. The Ten Commandments are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths, and no legislative recitation of a supposed secular purpose can blind us to that fact.
In 2000, a federal judge prohibited the state of Kentucky from erecting a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds on the state capitol, saying that it would amount to the government endorsement of religion.
Proponents of public displays of the Ten Commandments haven't given up.
As a CBS affiliate reports, in November Alabama voters will vote on whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed on state property. A poll shows that 75% of Alabamians support the measure.
Photos Credit: Eliphas Levi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons