Officials in Florida have granted the New York-based Satanic Temple the right to put up a holiday display next to a nativity scene in the capitol building in Tallahassee after banning them from doing so last year.
According to The Blaze, the display, which features bible verses next to an angel falling into burning flames, was rejected for inclusion at the capitol building last year after officials deemed it offensive. “The department’s position is that your proposed display is grossly offensive during the holiday season,” a statement from the Florida Department of Management Services read.
The banning was strongly opposed by an organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who threatened a lawsuit on behalf of the Satanist group if they were yet again not allowed to put up their holiday display.
“Free speech is for everyone and all groups,” Americans United director Rev. Barry W. Lynn said. “State officials simply can’t get into the business of deciding that some unpopular messages are ‘offensive’ and must be banned.”
Another Americans United member, Gregory M. Lipper, said that the state had no right to ban the group from showing their holiday display to begin with. “Although we are pleased that the state has finally agreed to allow the Satanic Temple’s display, our clients should not have been forced to find legal counsel and plan a lawsuit just to get access to an open forum,” Lipper said in a statement. “The state can’t give itself the authority to decide whether certain religious messages are ‘offensive’ – it needs to allow everyone’s speech or no one’s speech.”
Americans United has stated that the Satanic Temple is a group that does not actually believe Satan exists, and rather “advocates for religious tolerance and pluralism.”
Sources: The Blaze, AU.org / Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org