State panel forwards bid for ‘Baphomet’ statue on Capitol grounds, Christian group protests ‘monument to the devil’
A subcommittee of the State Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission on Wednesday (Jan. 25) approved an application of the Satanic Temple of Salem, Mass., to advance a proposal to place a so-called “Baphomet” statue on the northeast corner of the State Capitol grounds.
The procedural action by the subcommittee does not approve the placing of the goat-headed, angel-winged, androgynous monument near the corner of State Capitol Road and Third Street, but allows the group to schedule a public hearing in the future to debate the merits of the 8-foot bronze statute.
“Specifically, what we are looking for is the ability to install a (concrete) pad that provides permanence,” said Chief Deputy Secretary of State Kelly Boyd, a member of the subcommittee. “The next step is a public hearing where you will be asked to come and members of the public would be allowed to express their opinions regarding the proposed monument.”
After the panel approved the group’s application, Satanic Temple representative Lucien Greaves asked Boyd when a public hearing would be scheduled for the Baphomet statute. Boyd replied that the group must now find an Arkansas lawmaker to sponsor enabling legislation to approve the monument ahead of a public hearing. Boyd added that such a hearing would not likely take place until after the ongoing legislative session at the State Capitol adjourns.
“One of the requirements in existing law is that you have to have legislative approval before we can move forward. We’re in a legislative session now, and we won’t be here again until two years and we can’t do it the fiscal session,” Boyd said. “To (meet) the threshold to have that bill discussed, I would recommend to you give consideration to finding a sponsor to get that approval.”
After the brief meeting that lasted less than 15 minutes, Greaves expressed dismay that the group now needed to find a sponsor to schedule a public hearing and go back to the State Capitol Commission to seek approval for the monument.
“That will be a high hurdle to get over,” said Greaves, the Satanic Temple co-founder. “We can now see what the odds are for that, but I haven’t reached out yet to a (sponsor).”
The Satanic Temple, which is a loosely based group of several satanic chapter dens across the U.S., originally filed its application in August with the state subcommittee in response to the signing of a bill by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in the 2015 legislative session that would place a Ten Commandments monument on opposite corner of the Capitol grounds. That legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, and several co-sponsors from the Republican Party who patterned the enabling bill after similar measures in Oklahoma and other states that propose to pay for the monument with private funds.
Hutchinson and other GOP lawmakers have defended the plan to place the Ten Commandment monument on State Capitol grounds in light of complaints from the Satanic Temple and other non-Christian groups that such displays represent the state’s endorsement of religion and therefore violates the First Amendment. In 2015, Oklahoma officials were forced to remove a 10 Commandments monument after that state’s Supreme Court said it violated the state’s constitution.
In the 2015 session, Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin denied a Hindu group request to place a statute of the monkey god Lord Hanuman on the Capitol grounds after the Ten Commandment proposed was signed into law. The Universal Society of Hinduism also proposed to pay for its statue with private money.
At the time, Gov. Hutchinson defended the legislature’s placement of a monument to the Ten Commandments because of their historical significance. He said he would have a problem with Hindu- and Satanic-related monuments.
“The Capitol grounds, we want to be careful as to what monuments and designations go there,” he said. “I think the secretary of state has historically been careful. … We don’t want just every group putting a statue on the Capitol grounds. We want it to be exclusive, we want it to be reasoned, we want it to be reflective, and I think that’s one of the reasons it went through the legislative process.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Boyd told Greaves that the Capitol grounds panel will hear a presentation tomorrow for a proposed Gold Star Families monument on Capitol grounds, which will honor families of soldiers who died in defense of the U.S.
“We are having that meeting tomorrow and one of the sponsors is a legislator and he has assured me he is filing a bill for that proposal this session,” Boyd said. “Anytime a monument has gone up, the veterans, the Vietnam veterans, Medal of Honor, firefighters or the Little Rock Nine, they’ve all had enabling legislation that says ‘we will build this monument on the grounds.’ So that is the only requirement.”
Boyd did not identify the lawmaker who plans to file enabling legislation for the Gold Star monument, but said such a bill would be need to be filing during the 2017 session before the subcommittee would move forward with public hearings for that application.
Protest group says nation in moral crisis
During today’s meeting, a large gathering of sign-carrying members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) protested in front of the Capitol Zoning District Commission building, a few blocks from the State Capitol. (See picture above.) The group prayed, sang Christian songs and held up banners with Scriptures denouncing the devil and his works and requesting that the subcommittee revoke the Satanic Temple’s application. According to the TFP’s website, the is an organization of lay Catholic Americans “concerned about the moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization.”
Cesar Franco, A Texas resident who was leading the rally, said the group was there to protest the placement of a “monument to the devil” on the grounds of the State Capitol.
“This is something abominable, this something that we repudiate with every ounce and fiber of our being,” Franco yelled to the crowd of about 30 people through a megaphone. “In world in which chaos strives already, and we see the family under attack and we see crime and violence, to enshrine the devil on public grounds is to enshrine disorder.”