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Nobody throws religious conservatives for a loop better than members of The Satanic Temple.

For a few years now (with an obvious exception in 2020), members of the Temple’s Illinois congregation have put up a “snaketivity” display in the State Capitol building. This year, however, they went in a different direction.

This week, joining the Nativity scenes already up in the Capitol rotunda, the Satanists erected an adorable, swaddled Baby Baphomet.

Look at that thing. Just look at it.

Baby Baphomet display in Illinois
via YouTube

It was even installed with this glorious “consecration ritual”:

Today we gather to welcome Satanic enlightenment into the Illinois Statehouse and into the heartland of the United States.

Welcome, young Baphomet, symbol of our rapidly growing Temple!

Welcome, thou shaky but rising Beast!

Welcome, thou cloven-hooved Liberator!

We invite you today to bring wisdom, justice, and rationality to these chambers.

Equality.

Tolerance.

Compassion.

Empathy.

Critical thinking.

Personal liberty.

The pursuit of knowledge.

And the separation of church and state.

These are the ideals America’s Founding Rebels fought for. The Satanic Temple enshrines these values in our tenets, and carries the founders’ noble fight into the future!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Rebel!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Liberator!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Cultivator of skepticism!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Defier of unjust laws!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Expander of minds!

Chorus: Hail Satan!

Officiant: Lightbringer!

Let Satanic thought prevail now and forevermore in these hallowed halls of power!

Why put it up, you ask?

Why not.

“The Capitol welcomes a diverse range of religions every year to display holiday statues during the holiday season, so we wanted to join in on that,” Satanic Temple of Illinois Minister Adam said.

That’s the only explanation that’s needed. The consequence of Illinois allowing an open forum for holiday displays is that they have to let everyone in who fulfills the basic requirements, and the Satanists did just that.

I would also argue it’s just a good idea to offer alternative perspectives whenever opportunities like these present themselves — not to be a jerk about it, like those anti-mask nuts, but because your ideological opponents (especially those in the majority) will almost certainly make use of them. This is a perfect example of a display that hurts nobody, starts an important discussion, and infuriates all the right people.

For example, the display infuriated Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki before he even knew what it looked like. Paprocki is a guy who’s always been on the wrong side of just about every cultural issue, and he said last month that Satanists had no business being in the Capitol. He didn’t say that in response to anything the Satanists did; he just offered it up voluntarily. The Satanic Temple hadn’t even applied to install their display at the time.

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said in his Nov. 30 remarks at the installation of the Statehouse’s Christmas Nativity scene that satanism “should have no place in this Capitol or any other place.”

Too bad for him, the people who handle displays in the Capitol had no problem with the Satanists. Why would they? They’re a legit group who filed the appropriate paperwork. Nathan Maddox, an attorney who advises the state on holiday displays, even wrote a letter for the State Journal-Register in which he defended the Satanic display.

I do not want to be able to tell someone their beliefs are offensive and may not be expressed in the Capitol building, nor do I want to live in a country where government officials have such power.

I suggest the good Bishop give a little more thought to his desire to live in a country where governments can rule on the legitimacy of religious beliefs.  There are a number of such countries in the world and in many of them, Christianity is banned.

Talk about a mic drop.

The display was finally erected on Monday and about a dozen Satanists (and many news cameras) were there for the occasion. Paprocki didn’t attend despite a formal invitation from the Satanists.

But there were plenty of right-wing Catholics attempting to drown out the publicity with a message that religious neutrality by the government should somehow exclude Satanists from taking advantage of their free speech rights. (You can see them in this video from local news reporter Jakob Emerson.)

Look at the loons from the conservative Catholic group American Defense of Tradition, Family and Property with their insane banners reading “Satan has no rights!” and “Begone Satan! Mary Crushes the Serpent!” They could’ve easily replaced the first one with a banner reading, “Free speech doesn’t apply to people I disagree with” and it would’ve sent the same message.

via YouTube

It’s a sign of how weak their faith is that a small display of Baby Baphomet could destroy it…

But it’s not just religious nuts freaking out over nothing while implying the First Amendment should only apply to majority viewpoints.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, a MAGA cultist who’s running a (thankfully doomed) campaign to become the next governor of IL, also joined the anti-Constitution crowd and said the display should never have been allowed to go up.

via Public post: Darren Bailey for Governor Facebook page

Their evil, satanic display of the “Baby Baphomet” meant to mock the millions of Christians in Illinois is vile and has no place in our State Capitol. I am calling on my colleagues and every elected official in Springfield to stand up and demand this evil mockery of faith not be allowed in our Capitol.

Darren Bailey has done more to destroy the reputation of Jesus than these Satanists ever could. But even if we take him seriously for a moment, how does this display “mock” Christians? It simply exists. Meanwhile, the Nativity scene and the entire Christian message is that you have to accept their faith and their God or you’ll be tortured for all of eternity.

There’s nothing like that coming from the Satanic side of the fence. The Satanists’ message is inclusive, positive, and doesn’t come with the added baggage of being promoted by right-wing nutcases.

The only people whining are the Christians who can’t handle sharing public space with anyone who doesn’t share their exact views.

via Religion News Service

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.