Satanic Temple display placed next to Nativity scene, menorah in Statehouse: 'We see Satan as a hero'

A display from the Satanic Temple-Chicago has been placed next to a Nativity scene and a menorah in the Illinois Statehouse rotunda, the State Journal-Register reported.

Competing ideologies in the rotunda.(Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Nativity scene in the rotunda.(Image source: YouTube screenshot)

The sculpture is called "Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift" and shows a young woman's extended forearm, with its upward-facing hand holding an apple and a snake coiled around the arm, the paper said, adding that the entire structure — including the base — is about 4 1/2 feet tall.

Base of Satanic Temple display in rotunda.(Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Lex Manticore — a leader and spokesman for the Satanic Temple-Chicago — told the Journal-Register that the arm is that of Eve from the book of Genesis in the Bible, specifically the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden when they eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.

"We see Satan as a hero in that story, of course, spreading knowledge," Manticore told the paper, noting that gaining knowledge is "the greatest individual pursuit of bettering yourself, and we believe that you should basically act with the best scientific understanding of the world when you make decisions."

Manticore added to the Journal-Register that "all art is about provocation. It's about inspiring thought and emotion. ... Certainly, we can't control whether someone finds something offensive or not."

He also told the paper that the Satanic Temple's goal isn't to "replace or push out any other religious organization. We believe in religious plurality, and we just want equal representation. ... It's our constitutional right to do so, so we're just executing that right."

What did a state official have to say about the Satanic Temple display?

Dave Druker, spokesman for the secretary of state, told the Journal-Register that the Satanic Temple has the right to place the display in the Statehouse rotunda, just as religious organizations do.

"Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts," Druker added to the paper. "This recognizes that."

The state cannot censor the content of displays as long as they're not paid for by taxpayer dollars because the Capitol rotunda is a public place, the Journal-Register said, adding that a sign near the displays notes the Supreme Court ruling regarding displays:

Explanatory sign in rotunda.(Image source: YouTube screenshot)

More from the paper:

Also displayed in the Illinois Statehouse rotunda, as it has been for several years, is a statement from the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The statement marks the winter solstice. The sign asks that "reason prevail," and also states in part that "Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

Freedom From Religion Foundation sign in rotunda.(Image source: YouTube screenshot)

What's the Satanic Temple all about?

Manticore added to the paper that his 150-member group in Chicago doesn't believe in "anything supernatural."

"So that's no deities," he told the Journal-Register. "Not only do we not worship a literal Satan, but we don't believe one actually exists. Satan for us is a metaphor. ... Throughout literary history, [Satan has] been used as a character that represents rebellion in the face of religious tyranny."

The Satanic Temple is "a non-theistic organization, the mission of which is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will," the paper said, citing the group's application for the display.

A Vice News video characterized the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, as "not a group of devil worshipers, but liberal political activists who oppose the increasing influence of the religious right in American politics," the Journal-Register said.

Lucien Greaves, cofounder of the Salem group, said in the Vice report, "We are on the front lines in the war against encroaching theocracy," the paper added.

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