LITTLE ROCK (Christian Examiner) – The Satanic Temple is looking for a new home for its nine-foot-tall statue of its god, known by many names – the Devil, Beelzebub, the Beast and "the god of this age" among them.
The "temple," which claims its mission is to preserve the separation of church of state, likes to poke a proverbial finger in the eye of the conservatively religious. And it thinks it has found the perfect location to do so in the middle of one of the most religiously conservative states in America: Arkansas.
Last year, the temple announced it was seeking permission to locate the statue on the grounds of the Oklahoma capitol, which also had a granite copy of the Ten Commandments on display. That display was challenged in court as a violation of the Oklahoma state constitution by several citizens of the state.
The Satanist Temple, or whoever these pagans are, are simply trying to draw attention to themselves and it's simply an outrageous gesture that flies in the face of the sensitivities of the people of the state of Arkansas ... In my opinion, a lot of what they stand for is detestable to the everyday American and definitely to the everyday Arkansan.
On June 30, the state's Supreme Court ruled the Ten Commandments monument had to go because it was a "benefit" to a particular religion or set of religions (Judaism and Christianity). With that, the temple's hopes of planting the homage to the prince of darkness on the capitol grounds there evaporated.
But in April, another possible location caught the eyes of the temple's leaders when Arkansas legislatures passed a bill allowing a Ten Commandments monument to be constructed – with private funds – on statehouse grounds.
Now, the temple believes the monument serves a purpose in the Natural State, Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the organization told the Associated Press.
"It was always our intention to take this wherever it was relevant, wherever it was necessary, and wherever that dialogue needed to take place," Greaves said. In other words, Greaves and the members of the Satanic Temple believe they can use an absurd image to demonstrate what they regard as the absurdity of the influence of religion in and on government.
The nine-foot-tall bronze monument to Satan the temple hopes to install weighs nearly 3,000 pounds, and depicts Satan as a winged figure that is part man, part goat, has horns and a crown made from a flaming torch. His throne bears an inverted pentagram and is flanked by a boy and a girl gazing up at the face of the Devil. According to the temple, people will be able to sit in Satan's lap.
Jason Rapert, the Arkansas state senator who proposed the bill to authorize the Ten Commandments monument on the capitol grounds, said the Statanic Temple is missing the point. The purpose of the new monument to divine law is historical, rather than religious, he said.
In that respect, he is hoping that it will survive a legal challenge the same way the Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Texas statehouse did in Van Orden v. Perry in 2005 under a decidedly more conservative Supreme Court than exists today.
In the Supreme Court's view in that case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote for the majority, "Texas has treated her Capitol grounds monuments as representing the several strands in the State's political and legal history."
The Texas monument, carved and erected with private funds in 1961, was allowed to remain. Since, however, state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have ordered the removal of multiple Ten Commandments displays, including two at courthouses in Kentucky.
Rapert, who himself is the founder and president of a Christian ministry providing medical care in Ghana, said upholding what is legal is not the goal of the Satanic Temple. It also can demonstrate "no historical relevance whatsoever" with respect to the worship of Satan and the founding of the United States.
"Regardless of their overtures, there is no legislator in Arkansas that is willing to sponsor a bill to help them erect such a despicable monument - at least I would hope not. Regardless, our legislature would never pass such a bill," Rapert said in a Facebook post.
"If the Ten Commandments can be displayed in the walls of the U.S. Supreme Court and Moses can be carved into the chamber walls of the U.S. House of Representatives, I believe the Arkansas State Capitol grounds is a perfect place for Arkansas to honor the historical significance as well," Rapert said.
Rapert is correct that both Moses and the Ten Commandments are part of the structural façade of the U.S. Supreme Court building. However, those depictions do not contain the actual wording of the Ten Commandments. Instead, only Roman numerals are depicted in the representations.
Rapert said he hopes the Arkansas monument will be constructed by the end of 2015.
"The Satanist Temple, or whoever these pagans are, are simply trying to draw attention to themselves and it's simply an outrageous gesture that flies in the face of the sensitivities of the people of the state of Arkansas," Rapert said in a later interview. "In my opinion, a lot of what they stand for is detestable to the everyday American and definitely to the everyday Arkansan."
Greaves said the Satanic Temple plans an unveiling ceremony for the monument to Satan on July 25 in Detroit. The organization will then decide on whether or not to petition the Arkansas legislature for space to build the monument. If the request is denied, a federal lawsuit will almost certainly follow.
Almost immediately after Satanists announced plans for the Arkansas monument, a Hindu group also asked Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison to allow a statue to "Lord Hanuman" on the capitol grounds.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed said in a statement that the monument to the Hindu god, one of thousands, would be constructed, designed and paid for by private funds at no expense to the state.
Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, claimed Arkansas has a significant number of Hindu residents and students who would love to see a statue of Lord Hanuman.
The request may be solely tongue-in-cheek. Hanuman, the monkey god, is generally regarded as the king of mischief in the Hindu pantheon.