TALLAHASSEE––Visitors to Florida's capitol will see an assortment of holiday decorations–from the sacred to the profane–in the building's rotunda this December.
The Florida Department of Management Services gave the green light Dec. 3 to the display from the Satanic Temple being placed in the state's capitol.
The New York City-based group's request was rejected by the state last year. The display features an angel falling into a sea of flames along with Scripture verses referencing Lucifer's fall from grace.
The Satanist's group said it would sue the state if its display was blocked again this year. In blocking its appearance in 2013 the state said the display was "grossly offensive."
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State was behind the group's threat to go to court over a second snub. Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director, said, "State officials can't get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are 'offensive' and must be banned."
Lucien Graves, spokesman for the temple, said in a Tallahassee Democrat article that their display "sends a very important, affirmative message that goes above and beyond that of superficial season's greetings."
The temple's display, which will appear Dec. 22, is expected to sit among nativity scenes, a Hanukkah menorah, Christmas trees and secular presentations. The Freedom from Religion Foundation will hang a "Happy Winter Solstice" banner and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, known for its opposition to the teaching of creationism in public schools, is expected to place a pile of shredded paper on a chair.
In a news report, the head of the organization that plans to place a nativity scene in the capitol speculates that it is less about religious liberty and more about dismissing the message of the crèche that prompts the interest of other groups with displays.
"This is not a religious endorsement by our state government. It's freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and we will all be up there," said Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network.
"But are they really putting them up to wish everyone a happy holiday from the atheists and the Satanists, or are they up there to protest baby Jesus?" she asked.
All of the displays will in a particular section of the building's first floor, identified by a sign that reads: "The State of Florida does not endorse or sponsor the views expressed by persons or displays in this area."