Satanists, Hindus eye Okla. Commandments

by Sarah Padbury/WORLD News Service, posted Tuesday, December 17, 2013 (10 months ago)

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP) -- A satanic group from New York wants to place a shrine to Satan next to a Ten Commandments monument on the state capitol grounds in Oklahoma City.

The offer from the Satanic Temple in New York comes four years after Oklahoma's legislature approved a privately funded, biblically based monument, which was placed on the capitol lawn last summer.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union's Oklahoma chapter has filed a lawsuit to remove the Ten Commandments from the capitol grounds, claiming the monument is unconstitutional.

And, on Dec. 12, the Universal Society of Hinduism, based in Reno, Nev., announced that it would ask to place a statue of the Hindu "monkey king" god Hanuman at the Oklahoma capitol.

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, said the group plans to submit several designs, including one with a pentagram symbol and another that is interactive for children, to the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission for consideration.

Oklahomans' reactions to the Satan Temple offer have been less than welcoming. Both House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman issued statements on Dec. 9 that such a plan was far from a reality.

"Anything displayed at the capitol should be a representation of the values of Oklahomans and this nation," said Joe Griffin, a spokesman for Shannon. The satanic group's philosophies "do not align with the values of Oklahomans, nor the ideals this country or its laws are founded upon," Griffin said.

Various news outlets have reported that Oklahoma is obligated to accept the Satanic Temple's monument to avoid religious discrimination because the Ten Commandments monument is government property.

"The whole point is that we're a religiously pluralistic society, so if there's going to be one [religion represented], there will be others … or there will be neither," Greaves said. "Those are the only real options."

Not so fast, said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas, noting that the legality of the Ten Commandments monument and the need to accept other religious monuments are two different issues. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Ten Commandments monument on the Texas capitol grounds as constitutional in Van Orden v. Perry.

"The replica on the Oklahoma state capitol grounds is the exact same monument [as Texas], literally," Mateer said. "Exact size. Exact text. It would be bizarre if Texas can have its Ten Commandments monument but Oklahoma cannot."

In addition, Oklahoma is not compelled to accept the Satanic Temple monument. By unanimous vote, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Pleasant Grove City, Utah, was not required to accept a monument donated by the Seven Aphorisms of Summum, a Utah-based religious group that practices mummification, even though the city had already accepted a donated Ten Commandments monument. The justices concluded that the city had a right to "portray what the government decision-makers view as appropriate for the place in question, based on aesthetics, history, and local culture."

"It is extremely rare for the all nine justices to agree on anything," said Mateer. "However, they do agree that in situations such as this, the government has discretion to choose which monuments it wants to accept."


Sarah Padbury writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine (www.worldmag.com) based in Asheville, N.C. Baptist Press editor Art Toalston contributed to this article. Used by permission.

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