Visitors to the Florida Capitol building this holiday season will be treated to a festive display of… a Satanic Temple.
The Florida Department of Management Services recently approved an application for a holiday display from the Satanic Temple despite rejecting the same group’s “grossly offensive” display last year, according to the Florida Times-Union.
The temple’s display depicts a falling angel about to be engulfed in the fires of Hell.
Including the temple, a few other proposed displays will join the traditional Hanukkah menorah and Christmas trees in the first-floor rotunda of the Capitol.
The Florida Prayer Network and the International House of Prayer Tallahassee will display Nativity scenes.
“The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which “worships” a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, was also approved for a display in the Capitol.
A display for Festivus, a holiday invented “for the rest of us” by the sitcom Seinfeld, is pending approval, as are banners by American Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the Satanic Temple, told the Tallahassee Democrat that in a country that prides itself on religious liberty, “viewpoint discrimination is simply intolerable.”
“We feel our holiday display sends a very important, affirmative message that goes above and beyond that of superficial season’s greetings,” said Greaves.
Greaves also told the Times Union that “we hope that, this holiday season, everybody can put their religious differences aside and respect that the celebratory spirit of responsible hedonism is available to all.”
Pam Olsen, the president of the Florida Prayer Network, told the Times Union that she questioned the motives of the atheist group.
“This is not a religious endorsement by our state government. It’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and we will all be up there,” Olsen said. “But are they really putting them up to wish everyone a happy holiday from the atheists and the Satanists, or are they up there to protest baby Jesus?”
Olsen told the Democrat that she rejects the idea that displays representing religious holidays in the Capitol are examples of “government-sponsored religion.”
“Freedom of religion… makes America great,” said Olsen. “Our heart is not to cause any contention; it’s simply to say Merry Christmas. It’s really important that people understand that.”
The Democrat reports that signs accompany the displays in the rotunda with the disclaimer “The State of Florida does not endorse or sponsor the views expressed by persons or displays in this area.”
According to the Times-Union, “The state agency offered no explanation with its approval of the displays.”