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Arkansas secretary of state objects to Satanic Temple's role in suit, calls it a 'front'

by Linda Satter | July 29, 2018 at 4:30 a.m. | Updated July 30, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
The Ten Commandments monument, which sits near the state Capitol in Little Rock, violates the First Amendment mandate for religious neutrality, according to two lawsuits seeking its removal.

Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin formally objected late last week to The Satanic Temple's request to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds.

Then on Friday, four members of a walking and cycling group who filed the lawsuit also objected, saying the claims asserted by the proposed intervenors are "different, broader and bear only tangential relation" to the group member's claims.

The walking group members, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas, filed one of two lawsuits over the monument May 23. The other lawsuit was filed by a coalition of people representing various religions and secular groups.

Because both groups contend that the monument violates the First Amendment's Establishment Clause by constituting a state-sanctioned endorsement of one religion, and both seek the monument's removal, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker agreed last month to merge the lawsuits into one.

Meanwhile, The Satanic Temple, which describes itself as "an organized religion" with a mission "to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people," asked earlier this month to join the litigation.

While the plaintiffs in the combined lawsuit want Baker to order the removal of the 6-foot-tall granite monolith, the proposed intervenors want their own monument -- an 8½-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet, a part-man, part-goat deity -- installed alongside it.

In objecting to the proposed intervention, Martin called members of The Satanic Temple "a notoriously transparent front for 'trolling' pranksters" who use "fake and ambiguous names," rather than their own names.

Martin and the original group of plaintiffs complained that The Satanic Temple doesn't satisfy federal requirements for intervention. Martin, through Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni of the Arkansas attorney general's office, also said, "the proposed intervenors' conduct is beneath the dignity of this court."

Bronni wrote that the proposed intervenor isn't properly identified "as an association or as any kind of registered entity existing under the laws of any particular state" and its website contains no physical address, mailing address or other identifying information.

Bronni said there are at least two registered entities in Massachusetts using the name "The Satanic Temple," but their websites appear to conflict with each other and with the tenets of the proposed intervenors, who also said they are based in Massachusetts.

Even if it is an "organized religion," Bronni argued, The Satanic Temple isn't a proper plaintiff because a lawsuit cannot be filed in the name of an organized religion, such as Roman Catholicism or Buddhism.

To his response in opposition, Bronni attached a copy of a July 2015 article in The New York Times titled "A Mischievous Thorn in the Side of Conservative Christianity." The article quotes two men who say they co-founded The Satanic Temple and acknowledged that the names they use -- Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jerry -- are pseudonyms.

The article said each of the men described himself as an "atheistic Satanist," meaning that "he no more believes in a literal Satan than he does in a literal God."

Bronni argued that federal courts generally don't allow someone to proceed under a pseudonym, as a way of protecting "the public's legitimate interest in knowing all of the facts involved, including the identities of the parties."

Noting that Lucien Greaves was listed as both the casting director for and a character in a "mockumentary" on The Satanic Temple, Bronni argued, "Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck would have as legitimate a claim as 'Lucien Greaves' to bring a complaint in intervention."

Bronni wrote that one man who uses the Greaves name is "satirist Douglas Misicko, aka 'Douglas Mesner,' aka "Neil Bricke.'" He said Misicko has acknowledged "that The Satanic Temple is a satirical group," and has been employed by the filmmaker who runs the company behind the mockumentary.

The attorney for the state also complained that the proposed intervenors "have not alleged facts sufficient to constitute an injury in fact in the form of 'direct and unwelcome contact with the monument.'" It said Greaves' "purported injury consists of the purposefully vulgar allegation" that he visited Arkansas during the second installation of the monument "and was personally offended by its erection."

The original monument was installed June 27, 2017, but it was destroyed overnight by a man who rammed it with a vehicle. A replacement monument was installed April 26, surrounded by concrete bollards. Martin's office allowed the installation, which was paid for by donations to the American History and Heritage Foundation, which was created by state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway.

The original plaintiffs disputed the proposed intervenors' claim that the plaintiffs consented to the proposed intervention.

However, they said, they wouldn't object to the judge granting a motion to intervene that limits The Satanic Temple to "litigating the factual and legal issues arising solely from that Establishment Clause claim and nothing further."

Metro on 07/29/2018

Print Headline: Martin: Satanic Temple a 'front'; he objects to its role in state suit

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