LANSING, Mich. (Christian Examiner) -- A Satanist group's attempt to hijack Christmas at the Michigan State Capitol has been thwarted by a state senator.
When Rick Jones learned the Detroit chapter of the Satanist Temple was the only group to petition successfully for a holiday display on capitol grounds, he committed to place a nativity scene featuring the baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary in the designated area.
The Grand Ledge, Michigan, lawmaker, a Republican, said he wanted "to represent the light and not the darkness" in contrast to what the Satanists called a "snakeativity scene," which features a serpent, cross, symbolic book of knowledge and secular message, and is approved for display during the four days before Christmas.
Jones told a local radio station he was upset a "satanic group would attempt to hijack the Christian holiday."
"I will do everything in my power to save Christmas at the capitol," he said.
"Certainly, Christmas is the most holy of holidays and [it was] very inappropriate," Jones told a WWJ news reporter. "They could've put it up a different time of the year, but they chose to make it a direct challenge; and we're gonna step up."
Democrat State Senator Tupac Hunter was the first to criticize the Satanists' plans, saying their actions were an "effort to mock the concept of religious freedom" and "an attempt to scorn Christianity," according to press reports.
The state's requirement that displays be in place for a limited time each day–between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.–made it difficult for groups to gain permission to place a true Christmas display.
The state senator erected the crèche on Dec. 20, writing on his Facebook page: "Session went almost 21 hours overnight. I got two hours of sleep and went back to the Capitol to put up the Nativity. We had a huge crowd gather to sing Christmas carols. Children wanted their picture with the display. I will put it up every morning and take it down at night as required. Merry CHRISTmas!"
The Satanist Temple's display sends the message that "the greatest gift is knowledge," Jex Blackmore, director of the group's Detroit chapter, told The Detroit News.
Blackmore told the paper the group actually does not worship Satan, but instead is a "collective of Satanists, secularists and advocates for individual liberty."
In a similar move, a Satanist group in Florida placed a display extolling the virtues of their beliefs in an area of the state Capitol in Tallahassee set aside for December holiday exhibits.
Jones said he did not dispute the Satanists' right to erect their "ugly display." He emphasized he was placing the nativity scene as a Michigan citizen and not an elected official.
"This has nothing to do with government and everything to do with the people who came together," Jones said, in placing the scene on the Capitol's east lawn.
He made the decision to sponsor the nativity scene after an out-of-town group–intent on placing such a scene at the Capitol–realized it would not be able to comply with the state's rules that required the display to be removed each night.