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Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Should Oklahoma Allow a Satanic Statue on Public Lands?

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that a New York-based Satanic Temple has applied to have a seven foot tall statue of Satan erected on the Oklahoma state Capitol so that "people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation." According to the report, the group claims that the state of Oklahoma opened the doors to such a display when they allowed a privately-funded Ten Commandments monument to be erected at the Capitol in 2012. The next day, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to restore a cross to the county seal. Meanwhile, the battle for the cross on Mount Soledad continues to rage.

In a pluralistic society such as ours, should we expect to purge all public or government-owned lands of any religious symbolism? Or should we expect a religious free-for-all where petitions by Hindus, Satanists, and even atheists to place Flying Spaghetti Monster symbols in public locations will be commonplace? Are such things even reasonable to consider?

It is obvious that the requests by the Satanists and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster are really nothing more than publicity stunts. No one actually believes that such a thing as the FSM exists. The concept was used as a rhetorical device by a college student in a letter he wrote to the Kansas Board of Education, and that is definitely not a sound basis for a belief system. Their church and all that follows from it is just a joke. As for the Satanic Temple, even spokesman Lucien Greaves admitted the petition "is in part to highlight what it says is hypocrisy of state leaders in Oklahoma," according to the report. Greaves claims the Temple is serious about having a monument placed there, which is no surprise since if you can get your protest installed as a permanent structure, it lasts much longer.

What is clear, though, is that none of these requests are taking into account the function of what public monuments are supposed to perform. Communities place monuments in public spaces to provide a link to relevant actions or ideas that helped shape that community. As Wikipedia puts it, "A monument is a type of structure that was explicitly created to commemorate a person or important event, or which has become important to a social group as a part of their remembrance of historic times or cultural heritage." While the Ten Commandments can be explicitly shown to have shaped both the values of the citizenry in the state of Oklahoma and also modern American jurisprudence, the church of Satan, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, nor even earnest practicing Hindus can make such a claim. The state of Oklahoma is well within it prevue to reject these proposals even while allowing the Ten Commandment monument on just such reasoning.

Similarly, Los Angeles County Supervisors Antonovich and Knabe argued that the cross is appropriate on the LA County seal because the seal depicts a mission, which has historically boasted a cross on its steeple. California history is simply incomplete if one were to ignore Father Junipero Serra and the California missions. Whether the supervisors were themselves sincere in their desire, I don't know. However, I do know that the mission with its cross does accurately reflect the history and the cultural forces that shaped the county. Spanish Jesuits are why Los Angeles is so named.

It strikes me as I see more and more attempts to purge our cultural markers of Christian symbols that such motives are endangering our collective memory as a society. Monuments are important because they serve as remembrances of important influences. Public lands are not like AYSO leagues; not everyone should get a medal for simply being there. There are good reasons why certain Christian symbols belong on a county seal or a capitol lawn. I see no benefit from New York Satanists, nor how their ideas have contributed to the welfare of Oklahomans.


  1. Ultimatel, it boils down to supporting all religions or none... it simply isn't fair and just to pick which religions to support, regardless of perceived benefit. The Mormons, Hindus, Muslims, and everyone else will want, and should get, equal access. This is America.

  2. "Ultimatel[y], it boils down to supporting all religions or none". No, I don't think so. Again, that is disingenuous to what monuments are supposed to do. Its why I'm also against the how the Taliban were destroying statues of Buddha in Afghanistan ( Christian ideas shaped this nation and to not remember them is to unhook a moral framework from its foundation. It's just as dishonest to how we arrived at our current culture as it would be to try and wipe away references to slavery in the South.

  3. "Christian ideas shaped this nation and to not remember them is to unhook a moral framework from its foundation."

    In some regards, yes. But not in all regards. For example, there's nothing "Christian" about having a democracy or capitalism. The first Christians, In Acts, were communists, since they held everything in common!
    Acts 4/5

    The Believers Share Their Possessions

    32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

    36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    Ananias and Sapphira

    5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

    5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

    7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

    “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

    9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

    10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

  4. The first Christians were communal, not communists. Marx would be a ling time coming. However, they still believed in the right of an individual to own private property (Acts 5:4). If Peter said it was OK, then the communist label fails.

  5. Lenny, you missed, or ignored, this verse:

    Acts 4
    32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

    It is pretty clear!

    Of course, Christians do and believe different things at different times.

  6. The Plymouth Colony was also a communal settlement at first. Once the colony was established, more private properties were exercised. But the idea of communism has at its root the sharing of all assets by government control, not by individual volition.

  7. This is the crazy times we live in. People mistake certain freedoms they are given. They rebel against a government founded not on their group’s or religion’s principles but Judeo-Christian principles. If they are too ignorant to know this….then that is one thing….. but if they know this and keep routinely fighting against it…..then essentially they are fighting against the country’s history and heritage…..that’s where I feel certain individuals or groups can be escorted outside that country’s borders! And they won’t be missed because they can’t be good children and honor their country’s principles. You don’t have to “practice” the religion of the forefathers….that is the true beauty of freedom in the USA…but the way I see it…you have to honor many of the foundational values & principles (Judeo-Christian) of a country, no matter what. People in this country forget that their ancestors came to this country because of our principles and soldier’s have fought to keep them. I wouldn’t expect Satanists to practice my religion's values but if they want to live in Oklahoma…..they don’t get to have it the way they want it, otherwise they are sovereign. They get a heck of a lot freedom to practice their religion in the first place within this county’s borders….but this is a question of a government’s sovereignty (state or national) the way I see it. I dream to see a court that would uphold the foundational values and principles of this great country. No one is ever going to be pleased with the way their sovereign nation carries out all its functions. That's life! Too many people in our nation don't like their liberties abused. Mmmmm......SO sorry.....poor thing...I say BOOHOO to that! I didn't get all the liberties and freedoms I wanted growing up in my parents house.....but you know I don't fault my parents. They were sovereign so to speak....and I figured out how to live in their house. I had the freedom to leave....but you know I liked the benefits a little too strike out my own and create my own house with my own rules. I think I've made my point. Principles and values aren't equally shared but there is usually one power that is sovereign....and they get respect....or they should be able to tell you to pack up and leave!

    1. You do realize that Satanism isnt actually REAL, right? Its basically Atheism with a provocative name.

  8. The cornerstone of America is built on the seperation of church/state (the first amendment). This is not a Christian concept since it is not found in the Bible, as no where in the Bible does it say a State should be setup that way.

    First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

    When you try to bring religion into the public space (as in "My holy book or my prophet says thus and thus") it is usually a recipe for division and fighting.

  9. And also: Why should we stick with things that worked 250 years ago? The world has changed drastically, so we need to adapt. Just because something is old does not mean we need to keep venerating it today. Remember the past, but be eager to move on!

  10. As a moral code, the ten commandments are pretty lame. It pretty much represents a 'divine command' theory of ethics- what is good is good because god said it. It doesn't give any philosophical basis for morality, such as the superior modern moral systems built on reciprocity, individual rights, and consequentialsim.

  11. @John Moore Do you mean we should stop believing or applying Newton's Law of Gravity? It's like 300 or 400 years ago. Just because it's old doesn't also mean that it's not applicable anymore. There may be changes but we have foundations.

    @BernieDehler if you're a Satanist, then I would understand that the 10 Commandments are lame to you. Does the last five commandments doesn't give enough philosophical basis for morality to you?

    Honor your father and your mother.
    You shall not murder.
    You shall not commit adultery.
    You shall not steal.
    You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    You shall not covet.

    Do we have to debate over these commandments? Aren't these created for individual rights?

    If you agree with these commandments, then maybe it is worth to at least study if the first half commandments also make sense?

    1. ..wait, are you comparing a moral rule to a physical law? Newton didnt INVENT gravity, he just proposed the first explanation of it. Morals arent part of the foundation of the universe, they're just part of a society.


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