If advocates of the Satanic Temple get their way in court, then the Arkansas state capitol grounds could soon have a statue of Baphomet – an angel-winged goat – standing alongside its Ten Commandments monument.
A Ten Commandments monument was erected in 2017 on the Arkansas capitol grounds following the passage of a new law that allowed a privately funded monument to be erected. Although that monument was destroyed by a vandal within 24 hours of being installed, a new monument was erected in 2018, also using private funds.
The 2015 bill that passed the Arkansas legislature and was signed by the governor called the Ten Commandments “an important component of the moral foundation of the laws and legal system of the United States of America and of the State of Arkansas.” It also noted that the “courts of the United States of America and of various states frequently cite the Ten Commandments in published decisions.”
But the Satanic Temple, an atheist group that venerates the biblical Satan, believes the state of Arkansas should allow it to place a statue of Baphomet on the grounds. Baphomet is a pagan/gnostic idol dating to the 11th century that looks like a combination of a human and goat, with wings.
A federal judge allowed the Satanic Temple to intervene in a case filed by the ACLU, Bloomberg reported. The ACLU and the Freedom from Religion Foundation want the Ten Commandments monument removed, but the Satanic Temple wants the state to be forced to place the Baphomet statue on the grounds alongside the Ten Commandments.
“You can’t give preference to a specific religious viewpoint and also say we’re a nation of religious liberty,” Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves told Bloomberg. “Religious liberty was never meant to apply to one viewpoint.”
Members of the Satanic Temple don’t worship Satan. Rather, they see him as a “revolutionary antihero who stood up against impossible odds to seek justice and egalitarianism for himself and others,” according to recent court documents.
Mark Martin, who was Arkansas secretary of state through 2019, called the Satanic Temple “a notoriously transparent front for ‘trolling’ pranksters.” He opposed the group’s request to erect a statue of Baphomet.
The 2015 Arkansas bill labeled the Ten Commandments the “moral foundation of the law.”
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Ryan Overman, this is a stock image
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.