“Good people of Arkansas and supporters of religions liberty, I present to you Baphomet.”
With that, Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves unveiled a bronze, seven-and-a-half-foot-tall goat-headed statue at a “First Amendment” rally before the State Capitol in Little Rock on Thursday.
The statue was brought there in response to a monument to the Ten Commandments being erected near the capitol last year, and then re-installed in April, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported.
That monument, which was sponsored by Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert, was later smashed up after a man drove his car into it within a day of its installation in 2017. This year, it was erected again.
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In a Facebook Live video, Greaves stressed that the Satanic Temple didn’t bring Baphomet there with the intention of replacing the Ten Commandments, nor was it a call to take that monument down.
“We only want our monument on public grounds where other monuments of religious significance are pre-existing,” he said.
The Satanic Temple’s position is that public squares should be areas in which “free speech, religious liberty and equality under the law be respected by the holders of public office who swore to uphold those values,” Greaves said.
It does not object to Christian monuments being erected in such spaces, but to the exclusive display of that religion’s symbols.
“We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols upon you, as we do in having the beliefs of others forced upon us,” Greaves said at the rally.
Thursday’s rally wasn’t the first time that Baphomet has been trotted out in protest of exclusive displays of Christian symbolism.
It was first created in 2015, in response to a granite Ten Commandments monument being erected on the capitol grounds in Oklahoma.
That monument was taken down after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that it violated a prohibition on using public property to support “any sect, church, denomination or system of religion.”
Greaves removed Baphomet from the site after that decision.
The Satanic Temple took up the fight in Arkansas almost as soon as that one was finished, The Washington Post reported.
It sought to have Baphomet installed just as the Ten Commandments had been, but its installation was foiled by a bill that states monuments must be sponsored legislatively.
No lawmakers in Arkansas were willing to sponsor it.
But the fight didn’t end there.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has mounted a lawsuit that seeks to declare the Ten Commandments monument unconstitutional, according to NPR.
The Satanic Temple has tried to join that action and a judge will decide whether to admit it as part of the case.
The ACLU has sought to block the Satanic Temple’s participation, the Democrat Gazette reported.
–With files from the Associated Press.
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