LANSING, MI — Plans for a Christian nativity scene at the Michigan Capitol are on hold, but "The Satanic Temple" is moving forward with its own holiday display that was originally planned in response.
The group, which describes itself as a collective of “Satanists, secularists and advocates for individual liberty," has received permission to put up a display on the north Capitol lawn from December 21 to 23.
"We would prefer that no religious iconography was displayed on Capitol grounds or on state grounds for that matter," said Jex Blackmore, founder and head of the Detroit chapter. "But if there was going to be a singular voice represented, we felt it was best to add to that representation of diversity here in Michigan."
John Truscott, a member of the Michigan State Capitol Commission, confirmed that The Satanic Temple has been granted approval for the temporary outdoor display. It will be limited to 3-feet by 3-feet in size and must be removed each evening because of a pre-existing ban on overnight displays.
"We are restricted by the Constitution and bound by the Constitution to recognize their First Amendment rights," said Truscott. "We don’t have the ability to reject them if they meet the guidelines of the Capitol."
But on a personal level, Truscott said he thinks it is "absolutely disgusting to hijack a Christian holiday," and he expressed hope that the public will "just completely ignore these negative forces."
The commission in November considered a request from an out-of-state individual seeking to place a Christian nativity scene on the Capitol lawn. The unnamed individual was told he could obtain permission, but rules prohibiting an overnight display proved to be a logistical challenge.
"He's out-of-state, and he has not found anyone who could put it up and take it down yet, so there’s really been nothing to approve, in terms of the size and specifications," said Truscott.
The Satanic Temple made national headlines last month when it won approval to put up a display inside the Florida Capitol, where it was expected to join a pair of Christian nativity scenes. Its request had been rejected the year before.
The group does not worship Satan, according to Blackmore. Rather it seeks to "separate superstition from deeply held religious beliefs." The Michigan display, constructed by the Detroit chapter, includes a cross, a snake and a message that "the greatest gift is knowledge."