December 22, 2013

How Satanists Can Help Preserve the Separation of Church and State

Domestic Satanism
Domestic Satanism (Photo credit: Thawt Hawthje)
It is almost Christmas, so what better time of year than to address the subject of Satanism. We have a Catholic "demonologist" in the news making absurd pronouncements about how secularism has "left an 'open door' for the devil," efforts by the Satanic Temple to erect a statue next to a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma, and a potential legal battle brewing in Florida after the Department of Management Services rejected a holiday display from the Satanic Temple. As you may have guessed, this post isn't really about Satanism as much as it is about the separation of church and state.

I, for one, am thrilled to see Satanists attempting to contribute holiday displays. Why? Because this might finally open the eyes of some Christians to what happens when Christian displays (e.g., nativity scenes) are allowed on government property. This is how separation of church and state works: The state may decide to allow no religious displays whatsoever, or they must allow all of them.

The days when government officials could claim that they were willing to allow all holiday displays but that only Christians had requested one are behind us. The Christian majority first had to learn to tolerate Jews wanting to contribute displays. Then they faced displays from atheists. And now it appears that the Satanists are getting in on the act. Outstanding! I'm hoping Muslims will soon join in too. Perhaps when the circus finally gets to be too much to bear, states will do the sensible thing and prohibit any religious displays on government property.

I also hope that holiday displays will not be the only case where Satanists get involved. I'd like to see the government meetings that insist on beginning with prayer have to include some Satanic prayers. To be clear, what I'd really like to see would be no prayer at government meetings. But as long as Christians insist on Christian prayers, they must allow prayers from other religions. So bring on the Satanic prayers!

According to Jim Turner's article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, the state of Florida knew the risks when they approved Christian holiday displays.
Meanwhile the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida says it warned about the possibility of such a dispute after the state allowed a private group to put up a Christian nativity scene inside the Capitol.
If there is a legal challenge from the Satanic Temple, it sounds like it is one they would likely win.

Meanwhile, here is an excellent op-ed by Rhonda Swan in The Palm Beach Post explaining why Florida should approve the Satanic Temple's display. It is refreshing to see someone who understands what separation of church and state means in this context.

Finally, I should note that not all Satanists are thrilled with the strategy being used by the Satanic Temple here. The Church of Satan, in particular, appears to reject this approach.

H/T to Reapercussions

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