The Washington Post

Satanists want a monument in Oklahoma’s capitol

A Ten Commandments monument sits outside the Wyoming County courthouse in Pineville, W.Va., in this late-July photo. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

A New York-based Satanic group plans to submit designs this month for a monument it wants to erect on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol.

The move comes after the state’s Republican legislature authorized a privately funded Ten Commandments monument to be placed on capitol grounds last year, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple credited Oklahoma Rep. Mike Ritze (R) — who championed and helped to fund the Commandments monument — for clearing the path for his organization.

“He’s helping a satanic agenda grow more than any of us possibly could,” the spokesman, Lucian Greaves, said. “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.”

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The proposed monument could include a pentagram or an interactive display for children, according to AP. It would cost about $20,000, according to the group’s donation-collection webpage. It will also be child-friendly, the group says on their site.

“We are keenly attune to the need for a public-friendly design and plan is to make our monument an object of play for young children,” they write.

The legality of erecting religious displays in public spaces has a long and complicated history. Ten years ago in November, Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office after refusing to move a Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. The Supreme Court has weighed in on such displays in the past, but a gray area remains.

“So far the conclusion the Supreme Court seems to have come to is—if the religious display has been there for a long time then it’s fine to stay, but if it is not a historical object that has been there a long time, then this type of display in public places is unconstitutional,” Loyola Marymount University professor Rebecca Sager and University of Massachusetts Boston professor Keith Gunnar Bentele wrote in an August blog post. The two are co-authors, with others, of a book on state adoption of religious inclusion legislation.

From 1995 to 2009, they found 87 different laws passed at the state level aimed at expanding the “role of government in promoting or facilitating religious expression.” Thirty three of those laws authorized religious displays in public spaces. An Ohio bill introduced last week seeks to preempt limits on such public displays.

Religious inclusion bills passed in the states between 1995 and 2009

Southern states have passed the most religious inclusion legislation between 1995 and 2009. (Credit: Journal of Church and State.)


Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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