Satanic Temple Protests at Capitol

The Devil Went Down to Arkansas


Satanic Temple members unveil their statue in protest for religious freedom. “This is not a protest against the Ten Commandments. This is a rally for reason in the face of prejudice, progress in the face of decline, liberty in the face of rising theocracy, and toleration in the face of infantile tribalisms,” Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said. (photo from the Arkansas Times)

Black-clad worshippers cheer as their favorite statue, a goat-headed demon with massive feathered wings, is lifted from a palette truck and placed onto the stage.

“Good people of Arkansas and supporters of religious liberty, I present to you Baphomet — the symbol of pluralism, legal equality, tolerance, free inquiry, freedom of conscience, and reconciliation,” Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves says.

Across the street, protesters from nearby churches, the Knights of Columbus, and the Ku Klux Klan wave Confederate flags and hold homemade signs covered in Bible verses.

On Aug. 17, members of the Satanic Temple of Little Rock donned horns, color contacts, and pentacles to lead a seven-and-a-half foot statue of the demon Baphomet to the state capitol. The statue came from Oklahoma to aid in a protest for the separation of church and state after the Arkansas legislature’s approval for a statue of the Ten Commandments, a Christian religious symbol, to stand on the Capitol grounds.

The Ten Commandments monument was at the center of another controversy on June 29 when a man drove his car into the monument hours after it was first erected in a successful attempt to destroy it. It was re-erected just a few months later, sparking backlash as secular Arkansans fought to keep the Capitol unaffiliated with any one religion.

Members of the Satanic Temple are not actually worshippers of Satan. The true Lucifer fans congregate at the Church of Satan, which holds an annual Satanic Mass in honor of their dark lord. By contrast, the Satanic Temple members are First Amendment supporters, who use the “enemy” of the Christian faith to make a point about free speech.

“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,” the cofounder of the Satanic Temple of Arkansas, Ivy Forrester, said.

The Satanic Temple believes that, if Christians are represented on state property, all religions must be represented. They are lobbying to have their statue of Baphomet (affectionately referred to as “Bapphy” by an anonymous Reddit user) permanently placed on Capitol grounds.

Satanic Temple members believe that the separation of church and state is violated by the erection of monuments like the Ten Commandments now sitting on the Capitol lawn.

Senator Jason Rapert, the man behind the controversial Ten Commandments monument, didn’t think the Satanic Temple’s efforts were well-intentioned.
“This was meant to mock me and upset me because they know I am their target for passing the Ten Commandments monument legislation and raising the funds to have the monument put up at our Capitol,” Rapert said in a written Facebook statement on Aug. 20. “If I am going to have enemies, I am satisfied it is extremists like this who are truly a threat to American values. I will never yield to these extremists. I will continue to defend our traditional American values.” (Information for this article was gathered from AP News, The Arkansas Times, and Senator Jason Rapert’s official Facebook.)

What are Rapert’s ideas of the values of America? Most would agree that the First Amendment, a foundational part of the Bill of Rights, protects religious freedom, the right to self-expression, and the separation of church and state. Rapert is contradicting his own justification by refusing to either remove the religious statue he approved or to represent every religion with a statue of its own. If Christianity is represented on state grounds, all religions must be.

In the words of Greaves, “This is not a protest against the Ten Commandments. This is not a protest of Satanists vs. Christians. This is not a protest of secularists against believers. This is a rally for reason in the face of prejudice, progress in the face of decline, liberty in the face of rising theocracy, and toleration in the face of infantile tribalisms.”

The Satanic Temple might look scary, but the supporters have a valid point. If one religion gets a prime spot on government property, that favoritism implies that church and state aren’t separate after all, and that all religions are not equal in the eyes of our own legislators. Our ancestors came to America to escape the unfair treatment of their religion, and promoting one religion above the rest contradicts the liberties our country was built on.