LITTLE ROCK – A 7-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet a horned figure associated with Satanism was on display Aug. 16 in front of the Arkansas Capitol building during a rally being organized by the Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple protesting the display of the Ten Commandments monument on public land.
About 150 people – Satanists atheists and Christians – gathered for the peaceful rally with Christians standing nearby holding signs with Bible verses and occasionally singing songs.
"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 cofounder Ivy Forrester a rally organizer according to the Associated Press.
"The extremist group that has targeted our state again today came and spoke against the [Ten Commandments] monument during our public meetings and sought for a sponsor of a bill to erect their profane statue – they never had any takers" said Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert who sponsored the Ten Commandments monument. "The process was open and they failed to convince any of the 135 legislators to sponsor a bill to carry out their idea."
The group says they will continue to fight for the Ten Commandments to be removed in Arkansas or for equal consideration to be given to all religious groups.
The Satanic Temple has joined lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments monument on Arkansas Capitol grounds citing religious pluralism and the First Amendment.
Oklahoma faced the same type of battle in 2014 when The Satanic Temple wanted to donate a Baphomet statue for display on the Oklahoma State Capitol's lawn. In 2012 Rep. Mike Ritze similarly donated a Ten Commandments monument that was installed.
Sen. Jason Rapert R-Conway who drafted the 2015 legislation authorizing the monument's placement has said that “it would be a cold day in hell” before a satanic monument would be allowed on state Capitol grounds.
Lucien Greaves Satanic Temple spokesperson said in a news release “The Arkansas State government has flagrantly violated a founding Constitutional principle for which we call upon the people to rally with us to defend.”
“By erecting a privately donated Ten Commandments monument on Capitol grounds while refusing the placement of a satanic monument the state engages in illegal viewpoint discrimination” the Satanic Temple states on its website.
But after Michael Tate Reed reportedly drove his car through Oklahoma's monument the state's Supreme Court ultimately decided in 2015 that the monument could no longer stay there.
The Satanic group then set its eye on the Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas according to Lucien Grieves with The Satanic Temple.
In 2017 Reed reportedly destroyed Arkansas' monument in the same way as he did in Oklahoma less than 24 hours after it was installed. The monument was replaced.
– This story was compiled from reporting by the Baptist Press and the Arkansas Baptist News.