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article imageFlorida gives Satanists right to erect 'Angel in Hellfire' scene

By Megan Hamilton     Dec 5, 2014 in World
Miami - In 2013, Florida passed a law which gave equal representation to Christians, Jews, secular humanists, atheists, and Pastafarians, thus allowing them to construct testaments to their own faith (or lack thereof) on the grounds of the state Capitol.
However, when the Satanic Temple wanted to place its own display at the Capitol, the government threw a hissy fit, labeling it "grossly offensive" and forbidding it to do so, Slate reports.
When the Florida government let in one religion, it was required by the Constitution to open the door to all religions — and that includes allowing a religious display portraying an angel falling into the fiery pit of hell, per Slate. Discriminating against other viewpoints is a violation of the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court's conservative justices laid the groundwork for this, and the idea that the government can sponsor religious displays. The TST and Americans United for The Separation of Church and State aren't particularly thrilled with the conservative justices' efforts to tear down the wall that separates church and state.
So, the temple reapplied again this year, and brought out the heavy artillery for extra legal backing, hiring Americans United to represent them. The organization threatened to sue Florida for violating the temple's right to free speech by refusing to allow them to erect a display.
Perhaps cowed by the looming threat of a lawsuit, the Florida state government backed down, io9 reported. The Satanic Temple (TST) won the battle on Tuesday and Florida's Department of Management Services approved the display for the holiday season. The Satanic Display will be open from Dec. 22-29 in the Capitol rotunda.
The temple also plans to erect a statue of the pagan idol Baphomet in the Oklahoma State Capitol next to one of the Ten Commandments.
So what, really, is the Satanic Temple all about?
TST says its mission is to facilitate communication and mobilization of politically astute Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty," and to "encourage benevolence and empathy among all people," per io9.
"In addition, we embrace practical common sense and justice. As an organized religion, we feel it is our function to actively provide outreach, to lead by example, and to participate in public affairs wheresoever the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights."
The group champions progressive campaigns and advocates for women's reproductive health rights and same-sex marriage, as well as many other causes. Of course, the temple's freedom of religion efforts get the most attention — they argued that if a statue depicting the Ten Commandments could be displayed in Oklahoma's State Capitol, then they should be able to erect the aforementioned statue of Baphomet, along with any other religious representation that anyone donated.
"Nobody holds a monopoly upon the celebratory spirit of the holiday season," Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "If there is fun to be had, then — like the responsible hedonists we are — we’ll have it. We hope everybody can put their differences aside and enjoy the holidays as they see fit. We think that our holiday display sends an affirmative message of inclusiveness and plurality."
"Free speech is for everyone and all groups," the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, noted in a statement. "State officials simply can't get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are 'offensive' and must be banned."
So this year the Satanic Temple will also join The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Florida Prayer Network, American Atheists, and The Freedom From Religion Foundation.
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