(RNN) – Members of the Satanic Temple brought an 8-foot statue of Baphomet, a winged-goat creature associated with the occult, to the Arkansas state capitol on Thursday, protesting the official placement of a monument to the Ten Commandments.
They were, you might say, playing devil’s advocate.
“People of many faiths will come together at the Capitol to reject the Arkansas State Legislature’s efforts to privilege one religion over others,” Greaves said.
A monument to the Ten Commandments was reinstalled on the state capitol grounds in April, after an original statue was destroyed last year. A 2015 law known as “The Ten Commandments Monument Display Act” provided for the statue’s placement.
Thursday’s “Rally for the First Amendment” was a rebuke of the law.
— Jessi Turnure (@JessiTurnure) August 16, 2018
Greaves called the Baphomet monument a “symbol of pluralism, legal equality, tolerance, free inquiry, freedom of conscience and reconciliation.”
“We did not bring Baphomet here in hopes of replacing the Ten Commandments monument,” he said. “We only want our monument on public grounds where other monuments of religious significance are preexisting. We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols upon you as we do in having beliefs of others forced upon us.”
Jason Rapert, a Republican Arkansas state senator who was the lead sponsor of the Ten Commandments bill, responded with a statement on his Facebook page that said “our rights to build a monument were exercised through the electoral and legislative processes and have been upheld by the judicial system” while the Satanic Temple’s monument “failed to convince any of the 135 legislators to sponsor a bill to carry out their idea.”
“It will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol,” he said.
Sen. Jason Rapert - statement on the planned protests against the Arkansas #TenCommandments monument today by Satanists & Atheists:https://t.co/FIJv3SRxo3@KATVNews @KARK4News @THV11 @FoxNews #arpx @ABC @NBCNews @CBSNews @seanhannity
— Sen. Jason Rapert (@jasonrapert) August 16, 2018
According to the Satanic Temple, it does not “promote a belief in a personal Satan.”
“To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions,” the group’s website states. “We embrace blasphemy as a legitimate expression of personal independence from counter-productive traditional norms.”
It also says its mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”
According to the Associated Press, there were about 150 people present in all. While there was a scattering of religious counterprotesters and other objectors, the event concluded peacefully.
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