(RNS) – The Illinois Satanic Temple’s contribution to a holiday exhibit in the Illinois Statehouse rotunda in Springfield on Monday (December 20) – a swaddled baby version of the deity Baphomet – drew fire from the local Catholic bishop, who requested that the temple not be included.
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said in his remarks on November 30 during the installation of the Statehouse Christmas crib that Satanism “should not have a place in this Capitol or any other place.”
The Baphomet figurine, designed by artist Chris Andres, sits next to a Christmas tree, crib, and menorah.
“Many religions present symbols of their faith on the Capitol. Rather than seeing them as competing exhibits, we want the community to appreciate the rich diversity of beliefs and cultures, ”Erin Helian, director of campaign operations for the Satanic Temple, said in a statement.
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This is the third time that the Illinois Satanic Temple has participated in the Statehouse Holiday Exhibit, but the first time it has sparked so much controversy, says Minister Adam, a leader of the Illinois Satanic Temple , who said, “The state has been easy to work with.”
Adam said Paprocki’s condemnation of Baphomet’s display “came out of left field”, calling it a “divisive source.” The temple had not yet applied when the remarks were made.
Temple members weren’t the only ones responding publicly. Nathan Maddox, “an attorney who advises on exhibits that may be erected,” wrote in an op-ed for the State Journal-Register that he declined the bishop’s request and would not reject the temple’s request.
“I don’t want to be able to tell someone that their beliefs are offensive and cannot be expressed in the Capitol building, nor do I want to live in a country where government officials have such power.”
When the group finally scheduled the installation, members invited the community to attend, specifically welcoming Paprocki. “The Illinois State Capitol is a place of religious plurality and unity,” Adam told Religion News Service. “We want to celebrate everyone.”
More than 50 spectators attended the installation of Baphomet, of which only 10 were temple members, he said. Among them were protesters who sang and chanted prayers. Some held banners saying “Satan has no rights!” and “Get rid of Satan!” Mary crushes the snake!
The group of protesters was organized, in part, by the American Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, described on its website as “an organization of American Catholic lay people concerned about the moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization.”
Also in attendance were Republican State Senator Darren Bailey and his wife, Cindy. In a public Facebook post, Bailey, a candidate for governor of Illinois, said, “I met other prayer warriors on Capitol Hill today to pray for our state.”
Bailey also tied social policy to the temple’s installation. “We’ve all been appalled at some of Springfield’s extreme and evil laws, but just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse… they are going to allow a satanic demonstration in YOUR rotunda on the Capitol,” he wrote.
In years past, the temple’s display was a serpent wrapped around one arm and a hand holding an apple. The sign read “Knowledge is the greatest gift”.
Despite attempts to disrupt the installation ceremony, members of the Illinois Satanic Temple were not fazed by the presence of the protesters, even calling the song “magnificent.”
Adam said his own prayer, calling on the god of his group to bring “wisdom, righteousness, and rationality to these chambers.”
While temple members were disappointed that Paprocki had declined their invitation to attend, they were “grateful that a part of his flock was present,” said Adam.
“What better way to show unity than to welcome those who oppose us in the spirit to come together this holiday season.”