Move over, Christmas trees and Hanukkah menorahs. You’ve got company.
The Satanic Temple recently won a free-speech battle in Florida when, after a threatened lawsuit, the state agreed to allow a Satanist holiday display in its capitol building next to displays from Christians, Jews, secularist humanists, atheists, Pastafarians, and even a Festivus pole.
The display, which is a diorama of a winged angel falling into hellfire accompanied by Bible verses, was deemed “grossly offensive” by state officials last year, when it was banned from the building.
The Satanic Temple says its mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people. In addition, we embrace practical common sense and justice.” They campaign for same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and other progressive causes.
Most notably, they’re famous for their freedom of speech and freedom of religion campaigns.
Many secularists have rejoiced at the Florida decision but other conservatives are less than pleased.
“I’m assuming… this is purely an attempt to stick a finger in the eye of Christians in Florida,” Fox News personality Tucker Carlson said to Bible-Based Fellowship Church pastor Darrick McGhee on Saturday.
Carlson asserted that Satanism wasn’t a “legitimate religion” but rather “a pretty offensive prank” because there are no Satanists.
The Florida state government designated a capitol building rotunda as an open forum for free speech.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) is the group that threatened to sue the Florida government on behalf of the Satanists. Through this episode, they’ve forcefully driven home an important legal point in Tallahassee: If you open the door to one religion in a government building, you have to open it to them all.
“Free speech is for everyone and all groups,” Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a statement. “State officials simply can’t get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are ‘offensive’ and must be banned.”
“I mean, this is just an inability to draw reasonable distinctions between reality and what is a pretty offensive prank,” Carlson concluded.
Carlson, furrow-browed and indignant, didn’t bother to detail the distinction between “a pretty offensive prank” and a pretty powerful political statement.