The Satanic Temple Illinois erected a holiday display in the Capitol rotunda in Springfield in December, despite complaints from a local Catholic bishop who argued that the symbol should not have been allowed.
Several religious groups erect seasonal displays in the rotunda every December. The Satanic Temple has participated in the past, often displaying a statue of a woman’s forearm with a snake wrapped around it holding an apple, a reference to the story of Eve from the Book of Genesis.
This year, the Temple decided to change the display and erected a swaddled-infant version of Baphomet, a Satanic deity who has the head of a goat.
“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,” a Temple official who called himself Minister Adam told WICS-TV.
But not everyone was pleased with the display. Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield said Satanism “should have no place in this Capitol or any other place.”
Paprocki insisted that Satanism is not a real religion, adding, “True religion binds people to God and to each other in faith. The devil seeks to divide, not to unite, and the only thing that Satan worship binds its adherents to is the evil one,” reported Religion News Service.
Paprocki made the statement as he unveiled a nativity scene at the Capitol.
An attorney who has advised state officials about religious displays sided with the Temple, pointing out that the rotunda is a public forum that welcomes all religions.
“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,” Nathan Maddox wrote in a letter published in the Springfield State Journal Register.
Temple members reached out to Paprocki and invited him to attend an interfaith holiday event outside the Capitol. He did not show up, but on the day the Temple unveiled the statue of Baphomet, several members of an ultra-conservative Catholic group called the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property protested and displayed a banner reading, “Satan Has No Rights!”
Some state legislators also attacked the display. In a Facebook post, state Sen. Darren Bailey (R) wrote, “We have all been appalled by some of Springfield’s extreme and evil legislation, but just when we thought it couldn’t get worse … they are going to allow a satanic display in YOUR rotunda at the Capitol.”