The Satanic Temple held a protested the presence of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol Thursday. At the event, cosponsored by Satanic Arkansas, protestors unveiled a 8 ½ foot Baphomet statue that they would like to see erected at the Capitol.
The protests stem from a 2017 law passed in the state legislature requiring a legislative sponsor for the installation of a monument. Senator Jason Rapert sponsored the Ten Commandments monument last year and it was erected quickly and with little fanfare.
Less than 24 hours after the monument’s installation, Michael Tate Reed slammed into it with his car and knocked it over. He was arrested at the scene and was found mentally unfit to stand trial. Reed also rammed his car into a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma in 2014.
The Satanic Temple protest featured both Atheist and Christian speakers who called for either the removal of the Ten Commandments or the installation of the Baphomet statue. They argued that the Ten Commandments monument represents a state endorsement of religion and that if one religion can have a statue, then so can another.
Lucien Greaves, co-founder and spokesman of the Satanic Temple, released a statement explaining the rationale behind the event. In it, he said, ““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.”
Senator Rapert responded to the protests in a statement released on Facebook. He said, “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.” He also reflected on their desire to erect the Baphomet statue, saying, “No matter what these extremists may claim, it will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us to be permanently erected on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.”
The ACLU filed suit against Arkansas over the statute which allowed the Ten Commandments monument, known as Act 1231. The Satanic Temple sought to join the suit, but the ACLU asked the court to bar their involvement.
A small group of counter protesters came to the Capitol grounds as well. They prayed, sang hymns and held signs with Bible verses.
Photo courtesy: Unsplash/Aaron Burden