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A satanic idol goes to the Arkansas Capitol building

The Satanic Temple unveils its statue of Baphomet, a winged goat creature, at a rally for the First Amendment in Little Rock on Thursday. (Hannah Grabenstein/AP)
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A bronze statue of the satanic goat monster Baphomet was unveiled Thursday at the Arkansas Capitol building in front of a cheering crowd of free-speech activists and a smaller crowd of unhappy people holding handwritten Bible verses. The nearly 8-foot-tall statue’s brief public appearance marked the culmination of a three-year effort for the Satanic Temple to bring it there.

Below is the story of Baphomet’s journey to Little Rock, told with as many sinister goat images as possible.

1. Baphomet was born in Detroit

Well, technically his history dates back to 12th-century Europe, when the Catholic Church accused blasphemers of worshiping the idol, according to the BBC. Whether any Satanists actually did worship Baphomet is an open question, and he didn’t acquire his popular goat-human avatar until an occultist author made it up in the 19th century.

And then, somewhere in Detroit in the summer of 2015, this happened:

The Satanic Temple’s one-ton bronze-coated rendering left off Baphomet’s traditional hermaphroditic breasts and added two little kids at his side to make the statue more publicly palatable. The temple hoped to install it next to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Capitol. But as Abby Ohlheiser wrote for The Washington Post, the plan fell through after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the Ten Commandments taken down because the monument violated state laws on the separation of church and state.

So the Satanic Temple started looking for a new home for Baphomet — preferably another government building with a prominent religious display for the goat to complement.

2. Satan’s kind of an attention hog

Satanist opens city council meeting, and, well, just watch (Video: Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

The thing about members of the Satanic Temple: They don’t actually worship Satan. Or, at least, devil worship is not a requirement to join the organization, which is based in Salem, Mass.

“The Satan of Modern Satanism is a metaphorical icon for Enlightenment values,” the temple’s co-founder, Lucien Greaves, once wrote in an op-ed for The Post. “I identify nontheistically with a Miltonic Satan that defies all subjugation, exalts scientific inquiry and promotes Humanistic, pluralistic values.”

I’m a founder of the Satanic Temple. Don’t blame Satan for white supremacy.

In other words, the temple is a group of atheists, humanists and free-speech activists. They tend to use satanic imagery to mess with governments they feel are violating the separation of church and state.

Witness a 2016 city council meeting in Pensacola, Fla., which came to resemble an exorcism when a cowled Satanist showed up to give the opening prayer, prompting nearly everyone else in the room to recite Bible verses at him.

3. Baphomet <3 Arkansas

As soon as Baphomet’s Oklahoma trip fell through, the Satanic Temple turned its attention to Arkansas.

The state legislature had just passed a bill to erect a Ten Commandments monument in Little Rock. In a common legal tactic for religious equality activists, the Satanic Temple sought to install Baphomet alongside the Christian symbol.

“The Satanic Temple’s application was blocked by an emergency-session bill that requires all monuments have legislative sponsorship,” the temple wrote. Unable to find any state legislators willing to invite a monstrous winged goat onto the Capitol grounds, the Satanists started a crowdfunding campaign to bring Baphomet to Arkansas themselves.

The fundraiser easily met its $20,000 goal. Top donors got their name engraved on Baphomet’s back.

4. “Honk AGAINST Satan!”

More than 100 Satanists, atheists and some Christians headed to Little Rock for the big event on Thursday, the Associated Press wrote. Baphomet fans really got into it.

As for the good people of Little Rock, not everyone welcomed the demonic visitor. Here’s the scene the day before the unveiling. It’s unclear how many honked.

“It will be a very cold day in hell before an offensive statue will be forced upon us,” state Sen. Jason Rapert (R), a key supporter of the Ten Commandments display, wrote on the day of Baphomet’s arrival.

More protesters were on hand holding Bible verses when the goat rolled up to the Capitol on a flatbed truck Thursday afternoon. A few people also brought Confederate flags, for reasons unclear. Rapert appeared on the pastor Happy Caldwell’s show to preemptively declare Satan’s defeat.

5. It’s been a rough year for the Ten Commandments

While legal challenges have not (yet?) forced Arkansas to remove the Ten Commandments monument, as they have in other states, the old tablet’s had a hard time of it.

No sooner had the monument been installed in 2017 than “an alleged serial destroyer of Ten Commandments monuments” rammed a Dodge into it and shattered it, as Cleve R. Wootson Jr. wrote for The Post.

The monument was rebuilt, but a KATV reporter noticed it had been curtained off behind black tarps by the time Baphomet arrived. Local officials denied the Ten Commandments were being hidden from the Satanists. Rather, they said, the monument just happened to be cordoned off for preventive algae treatment.

6. Baphomet’s big show

It’s a little misleading for the temple to call Thursday’s ceremony an unveiling, since that took place three years earlier at what appeared to be a Detroit heavy metal concert.

But Satanists did technically pull a veil off the statue again in front of the Arkansas Capitol, thrilling a crowd that looked more cowboy-hats-and-jean-shorts than hood-and-cowl.

This was not to be Baphomet’s new home, though. He stayed in Little Rock only for a few hours.

From a lectern beside the goat and bronze-cast children, video shows, Greaves took a jab at “flabby old men who fashion themselves the master race” among the protesters, and then made a short speech:

“Good people of Arkansas and supporters of religious liberty,” he said. “I present to you Baphomet: symbol of pluralism, legal equality, tolerance, free inquiry, freedom of conscience and reconciliation.”

“The Satanic Temple never asked for the Ten Commandments monument be taken down, nor do we ask that Baphomet be erected to the exclusion of any other monuments of religious significance,” Greaves continued. “We have as little interest in forcing our beliefs and symbols upon you as we do in having the beliefs of others forced upon us.”

A man in a black ski mask holding a large stick interrupted the ceremony at one point to scream at a speaker for “leading people to hell, ” a video tweeted from the scene shows. (Warning: There’s profanity.) But a police officer intervened, and the unveiling went on.

The Satanists cheered at the end. The Bible poster-holders on the other side of the truck did not. Then the visitors packed up, the flatbed rolled away, and Baphomet returned to an undisclosed location to await his next adventure.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the masked man with a big stick yelled at Lucien Greaves about leading people to hell. He yelled at a different speaker.

More Baphomet:

Why a Satanic Temple member wants to perform rituals before a city council in the Bible Belt

A small Minnesota town is about to get the nation’s first public Satanic Temple monument

I’m a founder of the Satanic Temple. Don’t blame Satan for white supremacy.