A seven-foot-tall statue of a goat-headed deity known as Baphomet was displayed temporarily at the capitol grounds in Little Rock, Ark., in late August.
The display was part of a protest sponsored by the Satanic Temple, a national organization that includes promoting separation of church and state among its activities.
Temple members decided to rally in Little Rock after Arkansas legislators voted to erect a permanent Ten Commandments display on capitol grounds. The Temple has requested that its Baphomet statue be permanently erected on the grounds as well, so far without success.
“What we are asking for is only that the public square ... remain an area where free speech, religious liberty and equality under the law be respected by the holders of public office who swore to uphold those values,” Satanic Temple spokesman and co-founder Lucien Greaves told the crowd.
About 100 people attended the Temple’s rally. News outlets reported that a smaller contingent of counter-protesters also gathered. Some carried signs reading “Blasphemy is not free speech,” “Satan has NO rights” and “Honk for Jesus.”
Writing on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, AU Assistant Director of Communications Liz Hayes asserted, “If the Arkansas Legislature is going to sponsor a display of the Ten Commandments on public property, the symbols of other religions should be equally welcomed. But rather than cover the Capitol grounds with displays from every religion under the sun, wouldn’t it be simpler and more welcoming to have no religious displays?”