Members of the Satanic Temple recently erected an 8 and a half foot statue of the mythical half-goat, half-man known as Baphomet at the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock. The members say they did it in order to protest the capitol’s Ten Commandments monument, which went up last year after the American Heritage and History Foundation raised over $26,000 to build the 6 foot, 6,000 pound tablet using a GoFundMe page. Just hours after the statue went up, Arkansas resident Michael Tate Reed cried, “Freedom!” as he drove his Dodge Dart into the monument, destroying it. The statue was quickly rebuilt using a donation by independent Christian film and television studio Pure Flix Entertainment.
Organizers of the Baphomet statue assembly say that the statue is in no way a tribute to evil, but rather a symbol of free speech and respecting people’s varying beliefs. They argue that the Ten Commandments statue is an overt endorsement of Christian values by the government, which they consider an unwise mixture of church and state.
“We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols upon you as we do in having the beliefs of others forced upon us,” said Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves during the presentation of the Baphomet statue.
According to their website, “The mission of The Satanic Temple 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.”
Jason Rapert, an Arkansas senator who championed the construction of the Ten Commandments monument, told THV11 that while he respects the right to free speech, “It will be a very cold day in (the underworld) before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.”
But just as some aren’t a fan of the Baphomet statue, the Commandments statue had its fair share of detractors as well. In addition to Michael Tate Reed’s vehicular attack, the American Civil Liberties Union decried the monument in a federal lawsuit, deeming it unconstitutional and an affront to religious freedom.
One of the wierdest things most people misunderstand about Satanists is that they do not actually believe in Satan. They are aethiests. Gods and devils are just symbols and allegories to them: https://t.co/fHFEpTuGyf— Zack Davisson @AnimeNYC (@ZackDavisson) August 17, 2018
Interestingly enough, the Baphomet monument was originally built to stand at the capitol building in Oklahoma City in a very similar situation. In 2012, House of Representatives member Mike Ritze funded a Ten Commandments statue for the state capitol’s front lawn. But then the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered that the Commandments statue be taken down for using public funds to aid a religion.
In an email to the Washington Post, Satanic Temple cofounder Lucien Greaves said that “the entire point of our effort was to offer a monument that would complement and contrast the Ten Commandments, reaffirming that we live in a nation that respects plurality, a nation that refuses to allow a single viewpoint to co-opt the power and authority of government institutions.” After more than five years, the Satanic Temple got their chance to make that point by erecting the Baphomet statue in Little Rock, where their Ten Commandments monument still stands.
Do you think that both statues should be up, or just one of them? Or neither? Can freedom go too far? Let us know in the comments down below!