Tough luck to those anticipating a nine-foot statue of Baphomet meant to grace the Oklahoma state capitol. Today the state’s Supreme Court ruled that the granite Ten Commandments currently standing on capitol grounds must be removed. The religious monument rose to national controversy in December 2013, when the Satanic Temple challenged Oklahoma’s acceptance of religious statues at its capitol by proposing that the Ten Commandments be joined by a goat-headed Satanic sculpture.
As NewsOK reported, the judges ruled 7-2 that the installation of the Ten Commandments at the state capitol violates Article 2, Section 5 of the Oklahoma Constitution, which prevents public money or property from supporting a “church denomination or system of religion.” Today’s decision overturns one in March from Oklahoma County District Judge Thomas Prince, who upheld the placement of the monument.
The Oklahoma capitol Ten Commandments were first installed in 2012, albeit with a couple of typos, including “Sabbath” spelled “Sabbeth.” Last October they were shattered into several pieces when a man ran his car into them, reportedly declaring that the devil made him do it. The monument was swiftly replaced in January.
The Satanic Temple is distinct from the Church of Satan, and positions itself more as an advocacy group confronting challenges to religious freedom in the United States, from abortion laws in Missouri to a planned Nativity scene at the Michigan state capitol (the group added a Satanic display). Last January the Temple revealed a design for its monument intended for the Oklahoma capitol, inspired by a 19th-century illustration by French occultist Eliphas Lévi. Two children stand on either side of the central horned creature, whose lap is open for those who would like to sit in its presence. The completed statue will be unveiled on July 25 in Detroit, although its final destination is unclear.
The idea that placing the Ten Commandments on state government grounds violates separation of church and state seems evident, yet the battle over such religious monuments is ongoing and intense. Last February, an Alabama House committee unanimously approved a bill to allow a Ten Commandments monument to be constructed at the state capitol, and this April Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a bill that ordered the state to built a Ten Commandments monument at its capitol in Little Rock. The most famous example is likely the one located on the grounds of the Texas capitol, erected in 1961. Despite challenges, the Supreme Court ruled in Van Orden v. Perry that Texas could keep its Ten Commandments because they are of historic and not just religious significance to the state. However, on that same day in 2005 the Supreme Court ordered Ten Commandments displays taken down from two Kentucky courthouses.
Despite today’s ruling, the battle over the Oklahoma monument might not be over. Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement, “Quite simply, the Oklahoma Supreme Court got it wrong. The court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.” His office is reportedly requesting a rehearing and a stay of banishing the monument in the meantime. Perhaps Baphomet will be journeying to the Sooner State after all.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.