When The Satanic Temple wheeled out a giant Baphomet statue in Little Rock, Arkansas, this week, all hell broke loose — figuratively speaking.
The Temple drove the 8.5-foot bronze statue to Arkansas to protest the re-posting of the Ten Commandments outside the state capitol building. Their argument? If the Ten Commandments can have a spot, so can they.
A Baphomet is an depiction of Satan with wings and a large, horned goat’s head.
Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert, a Republican, is credited with getting the Ten Commandments monument put back on the state capitol grounds. The first monument was destroyed by a man who deliberately rammed into it with his car. To avoid a similar attack, the new version is surrounded by four security bollards.
The senator called the satanic group fake and "profane."
“The Satanic Temple is actually nothing more than a group of pranksters who go around and take advantage of gullible people around the country, trying to raise funds and promote the profane.” Raper said in a report by WFAA-TV.
He also alleged that people in the group use fake names.
“Under the First Amendment, everyone has a right to free speech and we respect that,” Rapert said.
He added that people also have the right to tell the Satanists: “...We disagree with your profane statements and your false claims against the people of Arkansas, and the attack, really the war, on the Ten Commandments.”
Regarding its right to display Baphomet, the Satanic Temple made the same argument in 2015 but backed away after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ordered the removal of a display of the Ten Commandments at that state's capitol grounds.
Also in 2015, group carted the statue to Detroit, Michigan, where it also caused an uproar. The group claims its statue is not evil, but is a symbol of their beliefs about the separation of church and state.
What did media say?
KARK-TV was one of the mainstream media outlets that covered the statue's unveiling in Arkansas. The TV station also posted a press release on its website that featured the bios of some of the Satanic Temple's members and a link to their website that urged readers to visit and "learn more."
A KARK reporter tweeted, “Baphomet has arrived at the state capitol to cheers of ‘Hail Satan!’"
The Arkansas Times chimed in with the headline “Satan vs. the Supremacists,” for an article that was promoted by the Satanic Temple’s Twitter page.
Rapert told WFAA: “It will be a very cold day in hell before we are ever forced to put up a permanent monument on the state capitol grounds that's as offensive as this group that hides behind fake names as they travel the country.”
Lucien Greaves, a co-founder and spokesperson for the Satanic Temple, refuted Rapert's statements.
“What the senator fails to mention is that on the same day that Supreme Court decision was handed down, the court ruled against two standalone Ten Commandments monuments,” Greaves said. “They only preserved the one in Austin on the grounds that is was a 40-year-old landmark and importantly, that it was displayed a number of other monuments with no evidence of viewpoint discrimination.”