“Florida’s Capitol,” writes CBS Miami, “will have a new holiday decoration this year. The Satanic Temple will be among its nativity scenes and secular presentations.”
The Florida Department of Management Services this week approved the proposed holiday display from the Satanic Temple, which a year ago was rejected because the agency said its proposal was “grossly offensive.”
So is turnabout fair play in this decision by the Sunshine State to suppress its distaste for the display and allow it to go forward this year? Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, seems at best ambivalent:
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. 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?
Good question. CBS News ran it by Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple, who had this to say:
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.
Responsible hedonism? That’s a curious way to describe public displays of religious devotion. One almost gets the sense that Greaves isn’t really religious at all and is simply acting out to mock Christians and Christianity.
Which, according to a 2013 interview with him at the website Vice, is precisely his intention. His real name is Doug Mesner, and when asked about the origins of the Satanic Temple, he said:
The Satanic Temple was actually conceived of independent from me by a friend and one of his colleagues. They envisioned it more as a “poison pill” in the Church/State debate. The idea was that Satanists, asserting their rights and privileges where religious agendas have been successful in imposing themselves upon public affairs, could serve as a poignant reminder that such privileges are for everybody, and can be used to serve an agenda beyond the current narrow understanding of what “the” religious agenda is. So at the inception, the political message was primary, though it was understood that there are, in fact, self-identified Satanists who live productive lives within the boundaries of the law, and that they do deserve just as much consideration as any other religious group. I was brought in originally as a consultant due to my expertise in the history of witch hunts and my understanding regarding conceptions of Satanism. While the original thinking was that the Satanic Temple needed to hold to some belief in a supernatural entity known as “Satan,” none of us truly believed that. I helped develop us into something we all do truly believe in and wholeheartedly embrace: an atheistic philosophical framework that views “Satan” as a metaphorical construct by which we contextualize our works. We’ve moved well beyond being a simple political ploy and into being a very sincere movement that seeks to separate religion from superstition and to contribute positively to our cultural dialogue. To this end, I am very much an activist. [Emphasis added]
The goal embodied in the highlighted passage sounds pretty political whether he admits it or not. Ultimately, it seems, Mesner is out to mess with the people of Florida, whose religious beliefs he appears to hold in contempt. He conceded as much when asked in the interview whether the Satanic Temple is a satanic or a satirical group. His reply: “I say why can’t it be both?”
The state of Florida is being had.
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