The Satanic Temple protested at the Arkansas State Capitol, demanding the statue of the Ten Commandments be removed from the capitol grounds and be replaced with a statue of the devil, which they happened to have on hand.
“If you’re going to have one religious monument up then it should be open to others, and if you don’t agree with that then let’s just not have any at all,” said Satanic Arkansas co-founder Ivy Forrester.
The organizers arrived at the rally last Thursday with a seven-and-a-half foot tall bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed, winged devil on the back of a flatbed truck. The Satanic Temple has petitioned several times over the past several years to install the Baphomet statue in front of the capitol but state law prohibits installing a monument without legislative sponsorship. The self-proclaimed satanists were forced to drive away without Baphomet debarking.
“The sole reason that we donated this monument to the state of Arkansas is because the Ten Commandments are an important component to the foundation of the laws and the legal system of the United States of America and of the state of Arkansas,” Rapert told the Arkansas Times.
Lucien Greaves, co-founder of the Satanic Temple, explained the temple’s motives for protesting.
“Religious liberty depends upon government viewpoint neutrality. This is what we seek to defend,” Greaves wrote in the Arkansas Times. “The Satanic Temple is conveniently maligned as an aggressor against the Ten Commandments, but the reality is that we are not litigating to have that monument taken down; we’ve merely asked to donate a monument of our own as an homage to pluralism, free expression and religious liberty.”
The statue of the Ten Commandments at the Arkansas capitol has been the focus of much controversy. Sponsored by Republican Sen. Jason Rapert, the statue was installed in 2017. Less than 24-hours after being installed, Michael Tate Reed demolished it by ramming it with his car. In 2015, Reed destroyed a similar Ten Commandments monument in front of the Oklahoma state capitol. From his jail cell, he confessed to the Arkansas Times, “I did it because I fully believe I’m the rider on the first white horse in Revelations.” Reed was charged with criminal mischief in Arkansas but a judge ruled that he was mentally unfit for trial.
At the same time as Reed’s act of destruction, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the monument, calling the display an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the state. Less than one year later, the statue was replaced. The new installation was surrounded by concrete barriers to prevent future ramming attacks.
Sen. Rapert posted an online response to the Satanic Temple, saying that although he respected their First Amendment right to Free Speech, they were, nonetheless, “extremists.”
“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,” Rapert concluded.
Arkansas’ monument is a replica of a statue at the Texas Capitol that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005. But in 2005, the Supreme Court struck down Ten Commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses.
The Satanic Temple petitioned to erect a statue of Baphomet in front of the Oklahoma capitol but dropped the cause when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the removal of a Ten Commandments display from its Capitol in 2015. The issue became moot in 2016 when the state’s voters rejected an initiative aimed at allowing the Ten Commandments monument to return.