By Theodore Mattheiss
Little Rock, Ark. recently approved the placement of a monument dedicated to the Ten Commandments on the capital grounds. The Satanic Temple, in response, has filed a lawsuit to have their own eight-and-a-half foot tall statue of Baphomet, a goat-headed satanic figure, placed on the same grounds, asserting that more attention needs to be paid to religious pluralism.
The Satanic Temple brought the statue to a First Amendment rally it held earlier this month as a protest of Christian dominance in governmental affairs. For years the Satanic Temple, a non-theistic organization, has sought to challenge the dominance of one particular religion in a nation that is supposed to keep church and state separate.
“The event is intended to be an inclusive gathering where The Satanic Temple will be celebrating pluralism along with Christian and secular speakers. People of many faiths will come together at the Capitol to reject the Arkansas State Legislature’s efforts to privilege one religion over others,” said Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Satanic Temple.
Several times during this spectacle, Mr. Greaves insisted that the purpose of this rally is simply to communicate a message to those who support the presence of this Ten Commandments statue on government land, and to the government of Arkansas itself.
“This isn’t a rally of secularists versus people of faith, Satanists versus Christians, or outsiders versus Arkansas. This is a rally for all people who hold sacred the founding Constitutional principles of Religious Freedom and Free Expression that have fallen under assault by irresponsible politicians,” Greaves said.
This isn’t the first display of dissatisfaction with the presence of the Ten Commandments monument. While this most recent monument was installed in April 2018, another identical monument occupied the same space a year ago.
Just hours after the monument was placed in 2017, a man drove his car into the stone and shattered it while blaring Christian rock music from his speakers and shouting “oh my goodness, freedom.” The man used this same strategy to destroy another monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2014. From his jail cell he told the Arkansas Times “I did it because I fully believe I’m the rider on the first white horse in Revelations.”
These flashy displays of discontent with the actions of the government in Arkansas ought to be telling them something: maybe this Ten Commandments monument isn’t a good idea. Why are we wasting tax dollars on something the government really shouldn’t be doing in the first place? There is no real reason to have this monument there. All it does is declare that Christians can force their religion onto the state, and in doing so, place it above the many other religions which also exist in this country.
I view it as a kind of victory lap that comes in the wake of decisions like the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which faced scrutiny from Christian special interest groups who felt that religious reasoning was fit to dictate public policy. This monument is the latest development in a growing trend we’re seeing in this country, one that the Founding Fathers actively sought to avoid.