Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Oklahoma Satanic Monument Takes Shape

The Satanic Temple is moving forward with the creation of its monument to Satan intended for the Oklahoma Capitol grounds. For those not familiar with the controversy, Oklahoma recently passed a law allowing religious displays on public property, and promptly erected a monument of the Ten Commandments. The Satanic Temple rightly pointed out that according to the Constitution, allowing religious displays of any sort means that the right to do so must be extended to all religious groups and in that spirit proposed their monument.

Now the group has gone ahead and hired a sculptor to create the molds that will be used to cast the statue, pictured above. It looks great, and I expect the eventual sculpture will be of similar quality. While it's true that Satan and Baphomet are completely different concepts and it might be nice to see an acknowledgement of that, this is more a political statement than any sort of magical operation. In popular culture something sort of like Levi's Baphomet is what people think of when they imagine Satan, so I expect that's why the temple went with it.

The statue is a direct response to the state's installation of a Ten Commandments monument outside the Capitol in 2012. State Representative Mike Ritze paid for the controversial statue with his own money, and therefore it was considered a donation and OK to place on government property. Following that line of reasoning, the Satanic Temple submitted a formal application for their monument.

As Trait Thompson of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission told CNN last December, “Individuals and groups are free to apply to place a monument or statue or artwork.” The applications are then approved or rejected by the Commission. Unfortunately, the state has placed a halt on issuing permits for any other monuments until a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against Ritze’s Commandments monument is settled.

Nonetheless, the Satanists are building this thing, and I was offered an early peek at the work in progress by Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves. Greaves told me he has received numerous threats from people who want to attack the sculpture, but that he “wouldn’t expect these outraged and nearly insensible reactionaries to actually know how to assault a bronze monument without severely hurting themselves in the process.”

Still, he’s not taking any chances. The Temple is building a mold of the sculpture so they can pop these things out like evil, terribly expensive action figures whenever they need a new one.

Jason Miller has also offered his take on the monument and I agree with him that it's a brilliant stunt on the part of the Temple. However, I don't necessarily agree with his speculation that the Temple is actually composed of knowledgeable esotericists just because I've seen no evidence to that effect. All the actions of the Temple that I've heard of have pretty much consisted of performance art - clever and provocative performance art to be sure, but nothing particularly magical or esoteric.

Still, in this case that's entirely not the point. The point is that in offering to put up the monument, the Temple set in motion a lawsuit that may very well establish once and for all that all religions need to be accomodated in the public square. That's a good and valuable principle to establish, simply because the Poor Oppressed Christians are not going to stop until they drive every belief but their own underground. The entire point of the establishment clause of the Constitution is to prevent such a thing from ever being accomplished.

It should be kept in mind that many Oklahoma Christians do in fact support the Temple's right to put up the monument, even though they don't agree with its sentiments. If anything, it seems like the politicians involved are more polarized than their constituents. Its important to remember that Poor Oppressed Christians are vocal, but there are actually a lot more reasonable Christians in America than Poor Oppressed ones. That's probably even true in a conservative state like Oklahoma.

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