The devil went down to ... Arkansas?
The Satanic Temple wheeled its giant statue of the goat-like figure Baphomet onto the lawn of the Arkansas State Capitol Thursday.
The jarring installation is the culmination of the church’s protest against a 2015 bill signed into law in Arkansas that allows “the placement on the State Capitol grounds of a suitable monument commemorating the Ten Commandments.”
Dozens of protestors gathered as the 8.5-foot statue was unveiled, according to a tweet from the scene from a KLRT reporter.
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Meanwhile, supporters shouted, “Hail Satan!”
“The event is intended to be an inclusive gathering where The Satanic Temple will be celebrating pluralism along with Christian and secular speakers,” Lucien Greaves, spokesman and co-founder of the Satanic Temple, wrote in a statement obtained by KATV. “People of many faiths will come together at the Capitol to reject the Arkansas State Legislature’s efforts to privilege one religion over others.”
Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, who was the lead sponsor of the bill that is now known as Act 1231, released a statement on Facebook in advance of the Satanst gathering.
“Though our state is being visited today by outsiders who clearly choose to travel around the nation uplifting the profane and proclaiming extremely unorthodox views, rest assured that though we respect their right to free speech, they must also respect our right to disagree with them and repudiate their false claims,” Rapert wrote.
The act’s closing sentence reads, “The placement of the monument under this section shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.”
The ACLU of Arkansas sued to challenge the constitutionality of Act 1231 in May, according to a news release. That challenge is still moving through the court system.
The Satanic Temple doesn’t really “worship” Satan, according to the FAQ section on the church’s website. Instead, Satanists believe in “Seven Tenets:”
“One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”
“The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
“One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
“The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
“Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
“People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and remediate any harm that may have been caused.”
“Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”
The name Baphomet dates back to the Inquisition and the torture of the Knights Templar before the year 1100, according to the BBC. The modern image of the Baphomet goat, which is portrayed in the Satanic Temple’s statue, was drawn by the French occultist Eliphas Levi in 1856.
“It contains all these binary opposites — above and below, part animal, part human, male and female,” Greaves told the BBC. “It embodies opposites and celebrates contrasts.”