There’s a pretty good reason for why the U.S. constitution prohibits allowing governments to publicly show any sign of endorsing a religion: Doing so would open up the door to having to recognize a number of religions that they may not necessarily agree with. That’s the problem that Oklahoma may be facing now that the Satanists have decided to donate a monument to be erected on the state capitol grounds.
As USA Today reports, Oklahoma state politicians eager to have the opportunity to place the Ten Commandments front and center at the capitol allowed a giant, privately funded monument to be placed on the grounds. Now the New York-based Satanic Temple has contacted the state, saying they would like to donate a monument, too.
“We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,” spokesperson Lucien Greaves wrote in letter to state officials, according to USA Today. “Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.”
Even better, one design could even be “an interactive display for children.”
Needless to say, this probably wasn’t what state lawmakers were hoping for when they fought to place the Ten Commandments at the capitol. Now, however, the state is stuck between a pentacle and a hard place. If they turn down the Satanic monument, they are accused of discrimination by favoring one religion over another. If they allow the display well, then Hail Satan.
Greaves and his group are fully aware of their advantage, too. “‘Obviously enabling Satanists to take advantage of the Bill was not considered when the legislation was drafted,’” Raw Story reports Greaves telling Hermant Metha via an email interview at Patheos. ”[B]ut ‘the fact is that laws cannot be discriminatory.’ He believes that there is no ‘legal basis upon which they could possibly reject’ the Temple’s offer, because ‘they set the precedent themselves, and they simply can’t reject a monument on the grounds that it its being donated by Satanists rather than a Baptist Deacon.’”
Ten Commandment monuments have been at the center of controversy and lawsuits before, most notably in Alabama where Judge Roy Moore refused to remove a display at the state judicial building. Moore was removed from his position over the standoff, but is back and currently the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.
Although the Fraternal Order of Eagles began pushing copies of the Ten Commandments into various state governments as a means of “combating juvenile delinquency,” in 1951, the traditional stone monuments that have been causing lawsuits since the mid 2000s actually had little to do with promotion of biblical laws. Instead, they were part of a massive public relations campaign by movie director Cecile B. DeMille for the Charlton Heston movie The Ten Commandments in 1956, and continued after that, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The Oklahoma Ten Commandments monument is currently the subject of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which argued, “This piece of public property, placed upon public property, conveys an explicit religious message that supports and endorses the faiths and creeds of some churches and sects.” Statue supporters say that the monument is not religious but “historical.”
“The monument on the grounds of our state capitol is in place as a tribute to the historical significance the Ten Commandments have played as the foundation of America’s and Oklahoma’s legal system as well as those common sense values many of the people in Oklahoma live by today,” Charlie Meadows, president of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, told the Christian Post. “Perhaps more importantly, they are the same values many of our pioneers lived by going back to our founding.”
“I just don’t know of any influence upon Oklahoma from a historical perspective by a satanic organization,” argued Meadows.
Satanists aren’t the only ones looking to take advantage of the potential open door policy on religious icons on the capitol grounds. A Hindu group has said it too is looking into providing a monument, according to Raw Story.
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