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Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Devil in Oklahoma

  Many people have said it many times. Sometimes freedom and liberty are messy. America is a big place with many different people of many different backgrounds and beliefs. Some of those beliefs are championed by the people; some of those beliefs are reviled. But again, in America, you don't have the right not to be offended. In some recent cases, we seemed to have forgotten that.
  As someone who is a member of a minority faith, maybe I am a bit more sensitive to this story than most. Or maybe it is the fact that I seem to be writing a lot more about the first amendment and free speech.
  This past Monday, January 6, a New York based group known as The Satanic Temple, submitted an application to a panel that oversees the State Capitol grounds in Oklahoma City. The application was for the design and placement of a statue, a monument of Satan, depicting the ultimate occult deity complete with horns, wings, and seated on a throne with a giant inverted pentagram. Two smiling children are standing on either side of him.
  The idea apparently came to this group after a monument depicting the Ten Commandments was placed on the north steps of the Capitol in 2012. The Oklahoma chapter of the ACLU is suing to have that monument removed; however there is no proof that they are doing so on behalf of the Satanic Temple. Other religious groups have also petitioned for statues in honor of their faith, and the Satanic Temple says that the Ten Commandments monument "opens the door" for Oklahomans of other faiths to be represented.
  We all know that religious persecution and the desire to practice their chosen faith was one of the primary reasons that the Pilgrims first stepped onto the shores of the New World. Back in England, the Pilgrims were seen as the extremists of the day, cult-like, and perhaps dangerous. They were not wanted in many places.
  Satanists are the furthest thing from Pilgrims true. One might say that they are the anti-Pilgrim. No one wants them around. Many times they appear a little scary. Not many people consider Satanism to be a religion. But as Americans, do they have a right to practice their faith? Do they have a right to have that faith represented in a public place? Yeah, they do.
  The Ten Commandments statue was privately funded, and according to The Satanic Temple website, they are almost half way to the $20,000 needed for their statue. Will they be able to raise the rest of the funds? Only time will tell. Will they be able to actually build it? Definitely a we-will-see scenario.
  Oklahoma is a tough stage to play when you are a Satanist though. State Rep. Don Ames, R-Faxon may have put the whole irony in a nutshell when he said, "I think we need to be tolerant of people who think different than us, but this is Oklahoma, and that's not going to fly here." Huh?
  Maybe Satanism is not attractive to the average Oklahoman. But rule number one for things like free speech and the freedom to practice one's faith is that not everybody has to like it. As a Wiccan, I have been blessed. My family, friends, and co-workers accept me and my choice of faith. I encourage them to ask questions, and I try to answer them as best as I can. I know that my choice may be disturbing for some, but I also feel blessed to know that I live in a country where I am free to practice my religion; also one that some might not call a "real religion".
  The saga of the Satan statue in Oklahoma is no doubt over. The Satanic Temple's application will get the same treatment in its trip through the maze that is state government bureaucracy that everyone else receives. Even for Satanists, the Devil is in the details.      

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