The Controversy in the Capitol
Every year there is controversy over the display in the Capitol Building from the Satanic Temple. This year, the Temple placed what looks to be a bronze baphomet (goat-headed) infant, next to the Nativity Scene in the rotunda. The controversy is always the same. Christians say that it should not be allowed in the rotunda while the Temple says that its display represents Freedom of Speech and/or Freedom of Religion. From a constitutional perspective, the Temple is correct. Every citizen is granted the right to believe as he/she wishes and the government may not infringe upon that right. So, according to the First Amendment, the Satanic Temple has the constitutional right to place its statue.
However, as a priest in the Episcopal Church, I do protest its place in the rotunda. The main reason for my protestation is because of what Satan represents. The Satanic Temple will argue that, according to their belief, a being known as Satan does not exist. The following quote can be found on the FAQ page of their website, thesatanictemple.com.
“Satan is a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority, forever defending personal sovereignty even in the face of insurmountable odds. Satan is an icon for the unbowed will of the unsilenced inquirer – the heretic who questions sacred laws and rejects all tyrannical impositions. Our metaphoric representation is the literary Satan best exemplified by Milton and the Romantic Satanists from Blake to Shelley to Anatole France.”
The Satanic Temple represents itself as an advocacy group for personal freedom and against what it considers tyranny. While the Temple does not seem to target the Church it is, in its very existence, offensive to Christianity. This is why I believe that having this display in the rotunda should not be allowed.
Even though the Satanic Temple sees the figure of Satan as a ‘symbol of the Eternal Rebel’, the person of Satan is the antithesis of our loving God. Throughout the Bible, more so in the New Testament but also in the Old, Satan is pictured as the first to rebel against God and be expelled from Heaven. Upon his fall, Satan took a host of angels with him into perdition. The Holy Bible depicts Satan, not as the liberator of humanity, but as a murderer and a thief. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John Chapter 10, Verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus is speaking here of Satan. Satan is not a liberator, he is a murderer, a liar. Satan stands against everything that Jesus Christ has taught us.
Because Satan is the enemy of God and therefore of Christians, placing a representation of him near the scene of Christ’s birth is offensive to Christianity. The Satanic Temple could choose any character they want as a mascot but they have chosen Satan because of its taboo and anti-Christian nature. While the Satanic Temple may not officially stand against the Church, its visual representation does.
Of course, the argument again is that they have the right to place that statue near the Nativity of Jesus. But one must wonder, what if a statue of Iblis, Satan in Islam, was placed beside a copy of the Koran in the rotunda? Would that be acceptable also? What if a neo-Nazi group put a swastika beside the Jewish Menorah? Would that be acceptable? Though constitutionally legal, wouldn’t we understand that putting those symbols together is offensive to these religions and then, out of good form, separate them? I bring this up, not to encourage the state to allow our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters to be offended, but to highlight the ridiculousness of allowing a display of Satan in the same room as the Creche.
To sum up. Should the Satanic Temple have the right to place this statue? Yes. Should they do so, even though it is offensive to Christianity by placing it next to the Manger? No.