LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The group known as The Satanic Temple temporarily unveiled its goat-headed Baphomet statue during a rally outside of the Arkansas capitol building on Thursday in calling for equal representation in light of the installment of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds.
Supporters cheered as the covering was removed from the homage to Satan, which was tied to a flatbed trailer—trucked in to make a statement about pluralism and equality during the two-hour event. The eight-foot bronze image features the goat-headed figure Baphomet making the sign for the occult as he sits upon a throne with a pentagram overhead. Children flank both sides, fixing their eyes upon him.
“We do not bring Baphomet here in hopes of replacing the Ten Commandments monument. It is not the purpose of our monument or our efforts to erect this monument to impugn or silence the beliefs of others,” Satanic Temple Co-Founder Doug Messner, who goes by the name Lucien Greaves, said at the “Rally for the First Amendment.”
“Despite what you have probably heard, the truth is The Satanic Temple never asked for the Ten Commandments monument be taken down, nor do we ask that Baphomet be erected to the exclusion of any other monuments of religious significance,” he told those gathered. “In fact, from the beginning we were clear: We only want our monument on public grounds where other monuments are pre-existing.”
“We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols on you as we do in having the beliefs of others forced upon us.”
Messner contended that the event was not a protest against the Ten Commandments, nor was it meant to be seen as Satanists versus Christians, but a “rally for reason in the face of prejudice.”
“Conviction enforced by coercion is subjugation,” he stated. “It has also been said that when tyranny comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. This is because the tyrant knows that through fear he can manipulate a people away from their principles, so long as he appropriates the proper symbols, repeats the appropriate soundbites, and claims to represent a purer form of the values he manipulates, deforms and ultimately inverts.”
Five speakers were stated to have addressed attendees, and the group reportedly filed a lawsuit following the event, as it believes that all religions should be represented or none at all. The American Civil Liberties Union, the American Humanist Association, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers have already filed suit to challenge the monument’s presence.
According to local television station KATV, a smattering of Christians peacefully gathered on the public sidewalk to take a stand against the Baphomet statue. Most held signs citing Scripture, including, “You shall have no other gods before Me – Exodus 20:3,” “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people – Proverbs 14:34,” and “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life – John 3:16.”
Sen. Jason Rapert, the lawmaker who had proposed the 2015 bill for the Ten Commandments monument to be erected, said in a statement that while he upholds the right of citizens to speak their mind, he also believes the monument is entirely constitutional as is.
“The people of Arkansas have exercised their rights to place a monument on the state capitol grounds which honors the influence of the Ten Commandments as an historical and moral foundation of law,” he said. “The U.S. Supreme Court upheld this same right in 2005 for the people of Texas in Van Orden v. Perry when it held that an exact replica of the Ten Commandments monument which we have on our capitol grounds was appropriate in the state of Texas.”
“I have personally visited the Ten Commandments monuments located on the Capitol grounds of Colorado and Arizona, and I am told Missouri also has a Ten Commandments monument somewhere on their Capitol grounds,” Rapert added. “Many times I have entered the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. and personally taken photographs of the Ten Commandments engraved on the doors entering the court chamber and beheld Moses engraved above the chair in which the chief justice sits.”
“If the display of the Ten Commandments is appropriate for the U.S. Supreme Court and these other states, it is also appropriate for the good people of Arkansas,” he declared.
Rapert also expressed his opposition to the effort to erect an homage to Satan on the capitol grounds. Lawmakers have reportedly ignored The Satanic Temple’s request to propose legislation that would allow the Baphomet statue to be erected, just like the Ten Commandments.
“No matter what these extremists may claim, 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. “Our Supreme Court ruled in the 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision Pleasant Grove v. Summum that no group can force a government body to do such a thing.”
The first Ten Commandments monument had been toppled last year by a man who struggles with mental issues, who states that something inside told him to “destroy it tonight.” Supporters donated funds for a new decalogue display, which was erected in April.
As previously reported, while The Satanic Temple contends that it is a religious group, it also notes on its website that it is “non-theistic” and does not believe in Satan or the supernatural at all, but only views the devil as a metaphor and a “symbol of the eternal rebel.”
“[W]e do not promote a belief in a personal Satan,” its FAQ section explains. “To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”
Some, therefore, consider the group as essentially an atheist effort to make a point about what it views as the government’s preference for Christianity.
The Satanic Temple had likewise called for equal representation when a Ten Commandments monument was installed outside of the capitol building in Oklahoma, raising funds to create a Baphomet statue to place on the grounds. It abandoned its demand for placement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the decalogue display violated the state Constitution’s prohibition on using government property to support a religion.
It first unveiled the statue in Detroit, where attendees shouted “Hail Satan” as two shirtless men pulled off the cloth that covered the figure and then embraced and kissed each other in front of the image.
The group has likewise fought against an abortion waiting period law in Missouri, and launched its “After School Satan” effort to counter Good News Clubs in public schools. It has additionally sought to present invocations at city hall gatherings in opposition to the predominance of Christian prayers, and asked its followers to call Christian bakers and order a cake to honor Satan.