Satanists pushing for statue at Oklahoma Capitol
The New York-based Satanic Temple group has submitted plans for a statue to be placed on the steps of Oklahoma City's Capitol Building.
The design depicts Satan as Baphomet, a goat-headed figure with horns, wings and a long beard, originally drawn by French Occultist Eliphas Levi. He sits on a throne with his right arm raised and index finger and middle finger pointing upwards. Above him is the symbol of the circular pentagram, and beside him stand two children, a girl and a boy.
"The monument has been designed to reflect the views of Satanists in Oklahoma City and beyond," said Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves in a statement.
"The statue will also have a functional purpose as a chair where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation."
Although many in the Oklahoma state government oppose such a statue on their Capitol building, the temple argues that objections to their monument would be hypocritical after Oklahoma lawmakers authorised the construction and instalment of a privately funded monument to the Ten Commandments for the building in 2009.
The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a legal challenge against the Capitol for violation of the separation of Church and state.
Quoted in the Guardian, Brady Henderson, the legal director for ACLU Oklahoma said: "We would prefer to see Oklahoma's government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are.
"But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple's proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint."
In letters between Mr Greaves and the Oklahoma state officials quoted in the Guardian, Mr Greaves said: "We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards. Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines."
The Republican state representative Mike Ritze, who led the push for the Ten Commandments statue, is credited by Mr Greaves as having opened the way for his group's proposal.
"He's helping a Satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could," Greaves said in the Guardian. "You don't walk around and see too many Satanic temples around, but when you open the door to public spaces for us, that's when you're going to see us."
Lawmakers in the state have generally been disdainful towards the Satanic proposal.
Quoted on RawStory.com, Republican representative Earl Sears said: "This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state, I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation."
The Guardian quotes Mr Sears as describing the statue as "an insult to the good people of the state".
"I do not see Satanism as a religion, and they have no place at the state Capitol," said Sears.
Republican representative Bobby Cleveland said in the Guardian that he didn't think the Satanists were in the same kind of league as Christians.
"I think these Satanists are a different group," Cleveland said. "You put them under the nut category."
Republican Representative Don Armes was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying "I think you've got to remember where you are. This is Oklahoma, the middle of the heartland.
"I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma, and that's not going to fly here."
Ex-Satanist Michael Leehan released a statement through Solus Christus Ministries that warned of the dangers of Satanism.
"The cracks that Satan had made in my soul were starting to fissure, and my emotional lifeblood was seeping out," says Leehan. "I was being pulled into a dark and desperate, emotionless void, with a heart and soul dying for lack of light. On the inside I was lost, hopeless and without direction, and certain I was the one soul who was beyond the reach of God. I felt hopeless."
Leehan was a Satanist for twenty years and in that time dealt with depression, self-harm, ritual sacrifices, channelling and ultimately a plan to murder the pastor of a major church in Oklahoma City.
"I knew something was missing. I was increasingly seeking something I felt I didn't have. I knew I was tired of the life I lived: the hate, the negative thoughts, the lack of feeling love, the numbness and aimlessness. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Hopelessness was constant. My thoughts went from darker to darker, resulting in my actions becoming darker," he said.
But Mr Greaves remains undaunted, saying on RawStory.com: "Our monument celebrates an unwavering respect for the Constitutional values of religious freedom and free expression. Satanism is a fundamental component at the genesis of American liberty."
The temple has announced it has already raised nearly half of the $20,000 needed to build the monument.
In response, the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission recently placed a moratorium on considering any new requests.
"Anybody can still make their request, but we'll hold off on considering them until the lawsuit is adjudicated," commission Chairman Trait Thompson said in the Guardian.