U.S.

Group aims to put Satanist monument near Oklahoma capitol

The Satanist Temple tells Al Jazeera shrine would be built in response to controversial Ten Commandments marker

The Ten Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma state Capitol in 2012.
Sean Murphy/AP Images

Satanists hope to build a monument to the devil outside the Oklahoma State Capitol building, in what they say is a protest against a controversial Ten Commandments monument erected there last year.

A spokesman for the New York-headquartered Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, confirmed for Al Jazeera Sunday that an Oklahoma-based temple affiliate hopes – with the permission of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission – to build a monument to Satan that will also act as “an object of play for children.”

Greaves said it is against the temple’s principle to build monuments to its faith, and that the act is, in the tradition of the literary Satan portrayed by John Milton in "Paradise Lost," a “rebellion against arbitrary authority.”

The temple would never have attempted to build its proposed monument, Greaves said, if it weren't for the Ten Commandments memorial, which the Republican-majority state legislature approved in 2009.

He said the prospective monument’s purpose “is not just to get people to acknowledge Satanism. It’s to represent the maligned minority (and show) we can all be represented. They’ve opened the door and set a legal precedent by which one can have religious monuments outside the capitol building like that.”

Marie-Anne Martin, a spokeswoman for Rep. James Lockhart, D-Heavener, told Al Jazeera the representative "is against Satanists putting up any sort of monument in the state capitol."

"Oklahoma is a largely Christian state, and (Lockhart) believes (state residents) by and large support the Ten Commandments monument on capitol grounds," Martin added.

Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville – one of the Republican lawmakers behind an ongoing push to build a chapel in the Capitol – hung up when he received an interview request on the Satanists’ proposal from Al Jazeera.

Cleveland did speak to The Associated Press.

“I think these Satanists are a different group .... You put them under the nut category, “ he said.

Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, whose family donated $10,000 to the construction of the Ten Commandments monument, was not immediately available for comment.

The Satanic Temple has engaged in a number of controversial challenges to the status quo.

On July 14, temple officials performed a Satanic ritual at the grave of the mother of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps, declaring her “gay in the afterlife.” The goal was to “make a mockery of their beliefs.” The Westboro Baptist Church is know for its inflammatory statements and protests, particularly against gay people.

Greaves told Al Jazeera the temple will become incorporated early next year, at which point it plans to conduct gay weddings in states where they are illegal and challenge local laws on the grounds that they violate religious freedom. Women seeking abortions where they must, by law, first receive ultrasounds will be encouraged to reject the procedure, saying that it breaks with their Satanist faith.

When the temple is incorporated, Greaves says, it will pay taxes.

“We think religions should pay taxes and give back to the general community.”

The temple’s legal counsel anticipates that in the battle for their pledged monument to the devil, the temple will be forced to prove they have “standing,” or that the temple has affiliates in Oklahoma.

“But we have plenty of people in Oklahoma willing to sign whatever is required to establish standing,” Greaves said.

Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, told the AP that if state officials allow one type of religious expression, they must allow alternative forms of expression.

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