A tablet of the Ten Commandments, which is located on the grounds of the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas, is seen in a Tuesday Oct. 12, 2004 photo.
Larry Kolvoord/AP Photo/American Statesman

Sympathy for the Devil in OK City

The grounds of Oklahoma’s state Capitol are getting a little more national media attention today than usual, and under the circumstances, locals probably aren’t pleased by the story that’s brought the spotlight (via Chris Hayes).
The Satanic church that applied for a permit to erect a monument to Satan next to the Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state-capitol building has unveiled its proposed design.
The 7-ft.-tall (2.1 m) sculpture would feature Satan depicted in the form of Baphomet, a bearded, goat-headed, winged hominid with horns seated on a throne beneath a pentagram with two smiling children to either side.
Regular readers of our “This Week in God” weekend feature may remember this story, which has been percolating for a while. Republican state lawmakers in Oklahoma started the dispute a few years ago by authorizing the placement of a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument on the capitol groups.
This, in turn, inadvertently opened the door to religious monuments Republican state lawmakers don’t like, including this one from a New York-based Satanic group, which has a 7-ft.-tall sculpture in mind for Oklahoma City.
As Time’s report added, a number of other groups have made requests to erect monuments, “including a Hindu group, an animal-rights group and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
All of the monuments, including the Satanic sculpture, would be privately financed, and wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. These groups are simply asking for is comparable public space the state legislature already set aside for the Christian monument.
As one might imagine, state officials aren’t exactly pleased, but this brings us back to the underlying principle at stake: in an open forum, the government can’t play favorites. If the government is going to devote space to promoting one religious monument, celebrating the tenets of one faith, it can’t deny space to other religions that expect equal treatment. It’s easy to imagine the Oklahoma state capitol eventually reserving space for everyone: Baptists, Buddhists, and the Baha’i; as well as Sikhs, Scientologists, and Satanists.
There are, after all, no second-class Americans citizens when it comes to the First Amendment. If one group has the right to erect a privately funded monument, everyone has the right to erect a privately funded monument.
Oklahoma will probably be less than enthusiastic about welcoming a permanent Satanic display to sit near the Ten Commandments display, but they probably should have thought this through before. They opened the door, and it’s going to get crowded as others walk through it.