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- 2013 - December - 20th -

Satanic Temple considers fight over display

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

The Satanic Temple may take Florida to court over a proposed Capitol holiday display that a state agency rejected as "grossly offensive."

Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based temple, said in an email on Thursday that he was "genuinely surprised" the Department of Management Services "would place itself in such a seemingly awkward position" by refusing to allow the temple's display.

However, before filing any legal challenge, Greaves said his group is giving the department a short time to clarify the offensive nature of the display and to see if some compromise could be worked out.

"It seems unthinkable that the DMS should be presuming negative value judgments upon our very religion itself, engaging in blatant viewpoint discrimination, so we must assume that there is something tangible about the content of the display that is demonstrably astray from established community standards," Greaves said. 

The Satanic Temple proposed a display that bannered the phrase "Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple" atop a diorama of an angel falling into hell.

A sign on one side of the display referenced Luke 10:18 including the line, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

The department rejected the application for the display on Wednesday.

The state agency had recently approved two Christian nativity scenes, a pole made of empty beer cans, banners from atheists and a shredded pile of paper that is supposed resemble the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Department administrative assistant Sherrie K. Routt late Wednesday emailed a denial to Greaves' temple that said "the department's position is that your proposed display is grossly offensive during the holiday season."

Agency spokesman Ben Wolf said in an email late Thursday that the rules for the displays in the Capitol rotunda will be reviewed.

However, he offered a generalized explanation that the "department" rejected the application and repeated that the "display is grossly offensive during the holiday season."

Gov. Rick Scott's office has referred all comment about the rotunda displays to the department.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida issued a statement on Thursday saying it expected such a scenario would occur in which the state would find itself having violated a group's freedom of speech.

The ACLU said it has yet to hear from the temple, but it would like to hear from any group "wrongfully denied" from being able to put up a display in the rotunda.

The ACLU had argued that no religious symbols should be displayed in government buildings after the Florida Prayer Network's Christian nativity scene was set up in Capitol rotunda Dec. 3. 

Since that time the Department of Management Services has approved a Festivus pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans by a South Florida political blogger, the Flying Spaghetti Monster display and banners from two atheist groups and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Wolf, the Department of Management Services spokesman, previously said proposed displays likely would get approved as long as there is space available and the displays meet state guidelines.

The department limits the height of displays based on where they are located in the rotunda and prohibits displays from blocking permanent memorials such as the Civil Rights and Veterans halls of fame.

There are department rules against noise and impeding official business.

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