Oklahoma lies right in the middle of the religiously-conservative heartland; thus, it comes as no surprise that the capitol building would have a statue of the Ten Commandments. However, recently the Satanic Temple launched a campaign for their own statue at the building. Their reasoning? A variety of voices and religious displays would be better than just having a single acceptable one.
Florida had a similar issue with a nativity scene at their state capitol building. To avoid infringing on First Amendment rights, they had to let some less-traditional groups set up their own monuments. And so alongside Jesus, Mary and Joseph was a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a Festivus pole (created from an iconic Seinfeld episode).
What this tells us is that when you open the floodgates, sometimes there is more than is bargained for. As Rob Abcarian from the L.A. Times, wrote, “You may not like him, but Satan is a legitimate religious figure.”
This is definitely true, and he is backed by many more thousands of years of tradition than the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Festivus. It seems that politicians have been parading around the idea of “freedom of religion” and “religious expression” without fully understanding what these concepts mean. Perhaps they figured it would be limited to a conflict between different denominations of Christianity, with a little thrown in from the Jews and Muslims.
According to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, there are an estimated 768,000 in the U.S., with possibly three million practitioners worldwide. These are very significant numbers, so why do we not see Wiccan ceremonies being held in public, or Samhain circles being taught in religious classes in schools?
Religions that are not part of the “Big Three” (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) are often overlooked, but in a country built specifically on the idea of religious tolerance, we must accept that some controversial beliefs that are proclaimed will have to be accepted and not repressed. The Temple of Satan, controversial or not, deserves much the same respect as any other group. Of course, another solution would be to not allow religious monuments to be put up altogether.
However, Fox News loves to shout about the “war on Christianity” being fought in this country, and cracking down on religious displays would only add fuel to the fire. Kirsten Powers, a weekly writer for USA Today, shares her views by stating: “Perhaps we should just focus on living out the Ten Commandments and ditch the monuments.”
It is a valid point, but many religious people would simply cry out “repression” and argue against it. Therefore it seems we have no choice but to accept the rights of any religion to display itself and learn to tolerate controversial opinions. This may be a long time coming, though, considering what a Fox News commentator said on national television last week.
“They should be able to put the statue up and then they should be shot right next to it,” Bernard McGuirk, a Fox News commentator, said.
This understandably angered the Satanic Temple, and it is ironic that a religion founded on a man who fought for peace is openly advocating violence against what, from the outside, looks to be a religion centered on darkness.
Perhaps what we believe to be darkness and light has become a little skewed.