Festive Satanic statue added to Illinois statehouse
A satanic group has added its own statue to a series of displays in the government building of the US state of Illinois to mark the festive season.
Placed between a Christmas tree and a menorah, the four-foot sculpture depicts a snake coiled around an outstretched arm holding an apple.
It’s the first display sponsored by the Chicago chapter of the Temple of Satan.
The state government said the temple had the same right as other religious groups to have a display.
“Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts,” Dave Druker, spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state, told the State Journal-Register. “This recognises that.”
The move has been criticised on social media by Illinois Family Action, an anti-abortion pressure group.
Past decorations in the statehouse rotunda, in the state capital Springfield, have included a “Festivus” pole – a reference to a fictional holiday which was the subject of an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld.
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What is the Satanic Temple?
Founded in 2012 in Salem, Massachusetts, the Temple of Satan describes itself as a non-theistic group that aims to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people”.
It says its uses satanic imagery to promote the separation of church and state and to campaign for “practical common sense and justice”.
It has 15 official chapterhouses in the US, the biggest of which is based in Michigan.
The temple was started by Harvard graduate Doug Mesner, known as “Lucien Greaves”, and an individual known as “Malcolm Jerry”.
In a speech, Mr Greaves said the group had had “thousands” of membership applications since the election of US President Donald Trump in 2016.
Earlier this year, members of a Satanic Temple placed a statue of Baphomet – a goat-like deity associated with Satanism – outside Arkansas’ statehouse during a First Amendment rally.
The group also settled a $50m copyright lawsuit against Netflix and Warner Bros last month over a statue of Baphomet used in the TV series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.