Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Arkansas Hindus Propose Hanuman Statue

Demonstrating that you really can't fix stupid, Arkansas lawmakers recently voted to allow a statue of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capital. Yes, just like the one in Oklahoma that led to all the ridiculousness with The Satanic Temple and their crowdfunded Baphomet statue. You would think that lawmakers might consider all the bad publicity that the Oklahoma statue provoked, and prudently decide not to wade into the controversy themselves. But you would be wrong.

In a new twist, though, it's not the Satanists who are calling their bluff. This time it's a group of Hindus who proposed erecting a statue of the popular Hindu deity Lord Hanuman. Of course, they were not granted a permit to put up their statue, because predictably lawmakers were fine with a symbol of their religion but totally not okay with one with one from somebody else's. And so it begins. Again. I do appreciate, though, that this time around the folks challenging the status quo are not "spooky atheists" but rather members of one of the world's oldest established religions.

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, offered to give the state a statue of Lord Hanuman, a popular Hindu deity often described as a monkey god. The group would have covered all of the costs to create, transport and erect the statue. “If permitted, we planned to make it big and weatherproof,” Zed wrote in a statement explaining the project. “Besides honoring the Arkansas Hindus, this statue would raise awareness of Arkansans about Hinduism, oldest and third-largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought.”

But don’t look for Hanuman in Little Rock anytime soon. State officials were quick to deny the request. The Associated Press reported that earlier this month the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office told Zed to either ask the General Assembly for permission or apply to the Arkansas State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission. Hmmm. I see a buck being furiously passed.

Although the Ten Commandments are found in the Old Testament, their public display at the seat of government is almost always championed these days by fundamentalist Christians. Their goal seems to be to imply that U.S. law has religious underpinnings. This is bad law and bad history. It also runs afoul of the First Amendment. Thus, Arkansas lawmakers could spare everyone a lot of time and money by removing the Ten Commandments monument right now. The law is not on their side here.

All religions or no religions, people. If you want to keep your Ten Commandments, the Hindus have to be allowed their Lord Hanuman. And as I've said before, I think the plurality option is great. It highlights the American approach to religious diversity, in which everyone is allowed space to express their beliefs. This works far better to my way of thinking than all religious expressions being seriously limited by the state, as is the case in some other countries that enact secularism through what is essentially religious repression.

I wish the Hindus the best of luck as they attempt to navigate the hurtles being put up by fundamentalists who would rather not share their place in the public square. I hope that their Lord Hanuman statue becomes a reality, and I look forward to reporting it here on Augoeides when it does.

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Nerd said...

We need to get in on this action. The LUST card would be a way cooler statue than the Baphomet OR the Hindu guy.

Scott Stenwick said...

Yeah, I think that would be great. We have plenty of Thelemic artists who could come up with something really awesome.