Kind of like a goat-headed Santa Claus, at least going by the looks on the children's faces. I'm not sure actual children would be quite so adoring.
In a tongue-in-cheek statement, the spokesperson and leader of the Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves (aka Doug Mesner), noted that the monument would be functional as well a symbolic, serving as a place "where people of all ages may sit on the lap of Satan for inspiration and contemplation" (although, as Robin Abcarian of the LA Times has noted, the monument might be more suitably used as a time-out chair by parents--a proposal that might cause me to rethink my view that time-out is generally preferable to corporal punishment).
The proposed monument is a response to the erection, in 2012, of a privately-commissioned Ten Commandments monument that is now on display on the Oklahoma capitol grounds. Doug Mesner has elsewhere acknowledged that the Satanic Temple was originally created to serve 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." Their current move is in the spirit of this founding mission.
The ACLU is currently suing to have the Ten Commandments monument removed--and the state of Oklahoma has put a "moratorium" on further religious monuments pending the outcome of the suit (there have, since the erection of the Ten Commandments monument, been requests from several other groups to erect monuments, including representatives of a major world religion, Hinduism). Put another way, the state has actually been able to use the ACLU lawsuit as a kind of cover--allowing them to reject other organizations' petititions for monument space.
But, eventually, the lawsuit will run its course. If the ACLU wins, the Ten Commandments will be taken down and the Satanists won't be able to erect their goat-headed Santa. But what happens if the ACLU loses?
There is, after all, an argument that could be made that keeping the Ten Commandments monument does not violate the establishment of religion clause in the Constitution. If the monument is treated as an historically significant symbol of the rule of law, apart from its religious content, there might be an argument for saying that the state of Oklahoma is not violating church/state separation by allowing a private group to erect the monument. This, in fact, seems to be the line that supporters of the current monument are taking.
But the state could make this case for preserving the monument only if it were equally open to erecting other such law-symbolizing monuments, and only if it adopted religion-neutral procedures for deciding which such symbolic monuments to erect. That is, they'd need to make decisions about monuments with no favoritism based on the religion of the monument sponsors and no favoritism based on the sectarian religious messages symbolically endorsed by the monument itself--and with a commitment to even-handedness in the implied message that the resultant mix of symbolic monuments conveys.
If the State of Oklahoma wants to pursue that course, they might win. And they might even avoid having to put up the proposed Satanic monument, since it is not overtly a symbol of the rule of law. But the Satanic Temple folks have proven themselves clever enough that they could quite readily revise their proposed monument to reflect the Satanic Temple's attitude towards laws.
And, in fact, the Satanic Temple does seem to have a law-and-order perspective that they want to bring into public conversation. Speaking of the Satanic Temple's relationship to Anton LaVey, author of the "Satanic Bible," Mesner had this to say:
LaVey’s rhetoric tended toward Social Darwinistic Police State politics. Since 1995, violence in the United States—and, in fact, the world over—has been in decline, and we’re now in a position to evaluate what’s working for us, and where we went wrong previously. Certainly, a strong and effective police presence is a contributing factor, but we also find that autocratic governments breed social violence. We also find that Social Darwinism, interpreted in brutal, strictly self-interested terms, is counter-productive, and based on a simplistic misinterpretation of evolutionary theory. We do better when we work in groups, where altruism and compassion are rewarded. We are social animals. That said, however, I believe in a system that runs meritocratically. Also, revenge is a natural impulse, without which justice would never be served. We should do our best to mitigate the pain of those who are suffering, whoever they are—but also be diligent to punish the misdeeds of those who behave unjustly to those around them.According to Mesner, the Satanic Temple does not embrace Satan as a literal being, but as a symbol wedded to an atheistic worldview. Satan names "a rebel angel defiant of autocratic structure and concerned with the material world," and this serves as an apt metaphor for a certain attitude towards political freedom and atheism, one that could be symbolically represented in a way that would likely meet the requirements for a monument on the Capitol grounds.
In other words, even if the particular monument proposal currently offered up by the Satanic Temple could be rejected in a manner consistent with church-state separation (while still preserving the Ten Commandments monument), it doesn't follow that the State of Oklahoma is safe from Satanic monuments.
Put more simply: If the state really wants to fight for the Ten Commandments monument in a manner consistent with church/state separation, it opens a big door. And while space limitations may give the state some leeway to choose among proposed monuments, the mechanisms whereby such choices must be made would be fraught with complications, potentially unsavory outcomes, and dangers of future lawsuits. Not to mention an aesthetic mess as rival groups clamor to install their goat-Santas and Flying Spaghetti Monsters on the Capitol grounds.
I'm a fan of the Ten Commandments. But I'm also a fan of church/state separation. The constitutional prohibition against state sponsorship of a particular religion is a promise to every religious and non-religious community in the country. It is a promise against having our religious freedom curtailed by the demands of a different religion that has come to enjoy theocratic control. It is a promise of a level playing field, in which all of us are afforded the freedom to live out our own comprehensive conception of the good life in a manner consistent with everyone have the same opportunity.
Allowing the Ten Commandments onto the grounds of the state capitol--unless it is done in a manner that would also allow the Satanic Temple to erect their own symbol of law--threatens that promise. But any threat to that promise is a threat to those of us who want to live a religious life informed by our understanding of the Ten Commandments. It threatens us because state sponsorship of religion may not always sponsor a religion supportive of the practice of our own.
Pursuing a policy that is both consistent with the promise of church/state separation and allows for the continued presence of the Ten Commandments monument is a kind of quagmire, one in which the Ten Commandments are lost, figuratively and literally, amidst the clutter on the Capitol lawn.
Far better, in the end, for those of us who care about the Ten Commandments to honor them on private ground.