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One Nation Under Satan: Religious Sculpture on State Property Rankles in Oklahoma

by Allison Meier on December 13, 2013

Oklahoma State Capitol (photograph by the author)

Oklahoma State Capitol (photograph by the author for Hyperallergic)

One only has to stumble over the last lines of the Pledge of Allegiance or look at the back of a dollar bill to see how monotheistic religion is cemented in the United States. And generally this has meant Christianity, with some state governments even establishing Ten Commandment monuments on their grounds. In Oklahoma, a 2,000-pound granite monument of these biblical rules might be joined by a tribute to Satan and a Hindu god.

19th century illustration of Baphomet by Eliphas Lévi (via Wikimedia)

19th century illustration of Baphomet by Eliphas Lévi (via Wikimedia)

The Satanic Temple of New York, which has made a hobby of these sort of public stunts that are meant to draw attention to religious tunnel vision, proposed that an “homage to the historic/literary Satan” be placed alongside the hefty commandments. Not surprisingly, the conservatives did not take kindly to this proposal.

The Ten Commandments monument was set up in 2009 right on the capitol grounds, albeit with some spelling errors (ex: “sabbeth” rather than “sabbath”). As Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville — who also happens to have been this writer’s middle school principal — told the Tulsa World:

“This is a faith-based nation and a faith-based state. I think it is very offensive they would contemplate or even have this kind of conversation.”

This week, the Universal Society of Hinduism joined in, stating it would apply for permission to build a statue of Hanuman, a god who appears as a monkey, at the capitol. Both the Satanists and the Hindu society are coming just on the heels of the ACLU giving their own challenge to the monument, as well as a legislative proposal from the House Speaker that a privately funded state chapel be added to the government property. Of course, Texas was way ahead of the game back in 1961 with its own Ten Commandments statue, which went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2005′s Van Orden v. Rick Perry where the monument was upheld as a piece of the state’s identity rather than its religion. This wasn’t the case for the commandments in Kentucky, ordered taken down as religious icons, or in Alabama in 2003 where they were removed from the state’s judiciary building on similar church/state grounds.

The Satanic Temple is raising money for the monument on Indiegogo, but whether or not it gets built remains to be seen.

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