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story.lead_photo.caption Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, presents a proposal to erect a statue of Baphomet — a deity that is part man, part goat — to a subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

State officials on Wednesday advanced plans for a Satanic Temple statue on the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol.

Photo by Benjamin Krain
During a meeting Wednesday, Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission member Catherine Johnson looks over plans for the 8.5-foot, 3,000-pound statue proposed by the Satanic Temple.

A subcommittee of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission voted that plans for an 8½-foot, 3,000-pound statue of Baphomet -- a horned figure with the head of a goat that is associated with Satanism -- were sufficient to move on to the next phase of the approval process, a public hearing.

A date for the hearing has not been set.

The New York-based Satanic Temple presented its final plans for the statue Wednesday as about 30 people protested outside the subcommittee meeting.

"We're tasked with determining if it's a safe, long-lasting, blending-in monument that goes on the grounds," said Kelly Boyd, subcommittee chairman and chief deputy secretary of state. "We're not tasked with determining political sides or anything else."

The Satanic Temple submitted plans for a Baphomet statue after Arkansas lawmakers, in 2015, passed a bill that allows a 6,000-pound monument of the Ten Commandments be installed on Capitol grounds. The law refers to God and the Bible and describes the Ten Commandments as "the moral foundation of the law" in Arkansas and the United States.

Opponents of the monument have said it violates state and federal laws, particularly the First Amendment, that prohibit governments from recognizing any one religion over another.

The Satanic Temple has argued that if the Ten Commandments statue is displayed on Capitol Grounds, then its Baphomet statue and monuments to other religions must also be displayed.

"We think having both sends a message that we still respect religious liberty and that the government has no place in dictating what is an appropriate religion and what is not," Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves said. "The government needs to stay neutral on items of religion and not endorse one over the other, give one exclusive privilege or cut another out of the discourse."

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The Saline Atheist & Skeptic Society also filed a request to place a structure on Capitol grounds after the Ten Commandments monument was approved. The group has proposed a brick wall to be constructed in front of the Baphomet statue and the Ten Commandments monument.

Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission subcommittees are scheduled to meet Feb. 9 to discuss the proposal.

State Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, sponsored the bill to place the Ten Commandments statue at the Capitol. The statue, which was built with private funds, is set to be installed on the southwest part of the grounds near the Arkansas Supreme Court this year.

The Satanic Temple requested that its Baphomet statue be placed next to the Ten Commandments monument, but has accepted a location on the northwest side of the grounds at West 3rd Street and State Capitol Road.

Many who protested against the Baphomet statue Wednesday said they were Christians and supported a Ten Commandments statue at the Capitol. Among them was Judy Vance, who traveled to Little Rock with a group of women from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Hot Springs.

"Why would we want to honor the devil? That's going to hell," she said. "I don't want to go to hell."

Many protesters were members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, a national Catholic group. Cesar Franco, a group member from Texas, led protesters in prayer and religious chants. He said efforts to display a Baphomet statue on the Capitol grounds were part of a broader "Satanic revolution" that includes gay marriage and abortion.

"Americans are a God-fearing people," Franco said, adding that he and the group "repudiate" Satan's works "with every ounce, with every fiber of our being."

After a public hearing, the Baphomet statue must be approved by a vote of the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission, according to Boyd. If that happens, the Satanic Temple will then need to find a legislative sponsor.

Greaves said he doesn't expect the project to advance past that point.

"I think what will happen is our monument will likely be denied, we won't find a sponsor," he said.

Other groups have also expressed opposition to the Ten Commandments statue. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Society of Freethinkers have warned of litigation if the state follows through with its plan to display the monument.

Laurie Flanagin, who was among the protesters from Hot Springs, said she didn't have a problem with state money being spent to defend the Ten Commandments monument in court.

"To me, in this day and age, there's nothing more important than what's going on with religion," she said. "So, to me, I'm happy to spend taxpayer money, my money included, on whatever it takes to get us to one nation under God."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that Ten Commandments displays in Kentucky courthouses were installed with religious motivations and violated the law. The same day, the Supreme Court ruled that a Ten Commandments statue at the Texas state Capitol could remain standing because it conveyed social and historic meaning.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that a Ten Commandments statue installed at the state Capitol violated the state constitution and had to be removed. The Satanic Temple had sought to install a Baphomet statue in that instance, as well.

"I hope that people will really respect the value of church-state separation and keep their religious worship to their churches and homes," Greaves said.

Information for this article was contributed by Emma Pettit of Arkansas Online.

Metro on 01/26/2017

Print Headline: Plans for satanic statue OK'd for public hearing


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Archived Comments

  • BirdDogsRock
    January 26, 2017 at 11:12 a.m.

    Yeah, tenpoint, we should make sure our state government excludes all those other unauthorized religions. The only authorized religion is christianity, everyone knows that. What is government for, if not to protect its citizens from the threat of strange religions?
    Yep, Rapert, you brought this hell on yourself and the state of Arkansas. Roast in it.
    I think having the nation's most exorbitant display of religious monuments ever assembled on a capitol grounds could become a significant tourist attraction, maybe generating enough tax revenues to pay for the lawsuits brought against Rapert's graven image.

  • ObjectiveFodder
    January 26, 2017 at 11:39 a.m.

    Lesson learned. Separation of Church and State y'all. If you want your Christian ideology on public grounds, you'll also get every other religion and belief system as well. Fair is fair! What a muse. Most all Satanic members and followers do NOT believe in Satan or any other GOD or religion. Trust me. Investigate them. They simply want to check and balance the incessant bravado and braggadocio arrogance which evangelical so-called conservative Christian fundamentalist attempt to shove down our otherwise secular cultural society. Lucien Greaves is a brilliantly educated and constitutional savvy patriot. John Horvat of Tradition, Family and Property and Arkansas State Sen. Jason Rapert, you are disrespectful to everyone NOT Christian. You have no concern for Jewish, American Indian, much less other citizenry’s religious faiths. Both Christian zealots are selfish and project their beliefs on the public, but do NOT speak for the growing secular and non-religious, much less other’s religious faiths. Oh, and which set of Ten Commandments are you referring to anyway? There were two sets by the way. EXODUS 20:2-17 & EXODUS 34:12-27. Which one did God approve of now? Dummies.

  • richardanderinpowell
    January 26, 2017 at 12:30 p.m.

    "moral foundation of law in Arkansas and United States": The only LAW covered by the 10 commandments is "Thou shalt not kill." Really??

  • hogfan2012
    January 26, 2017 at 12:48 p.m.

    Hope they publicize the public hearing time and location very well.

  • Queen1976
    January 26, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.

    What about the separation of State & Religion? I vote that there are NO monuments placed here. I think all these monuments are going to make the Capitol grounds look red-neck.

  • NoCrossNoCrown
    January 26, 2017 at 9:01 p.m.

    When the inmates took over the asylum, started passing these feel good laws to appease the christian taliban, I knew this would be the end result... Rapert is THE biggest A-Hole..

  • Packman
    January 26, 2017 at 9:33 p.m.

    You opened this can of worms, bro Rapert, this is on you.