The Chicago chapter of the Satanic Temple is clearly very proud of its “Snaketivity” statue it successfully forced officials to display next to a huge Christmas tree in the Illinois Statehouse rotunda just in time for the holiday season.
The statue, which features a hand holding up an apple with a serpent wrapped around it, is now included alongside a Nativity scene and a Hanukkah menorah. It’s title, “Knowledge Is The Greatest Gift,” overtly mocks the idea of Christ as God’s great gift to the world.
The Satanic Temple posted a few photos of the new statue online:
While the Satanic Temple is celebrating its Christmas-mocking statue, state officials don’t appear to be quite as thrilled about the stunt. As NPR notes, nearby is a sign that makes clear that inclusion of sacrelegious statues like the “Snaketivity” isn’t officials’ fault:
The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars. Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays. The United States Supreme Court has held that public officials may legally impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions regarding displays and speeches, but no regulation can be based on the content of the speech.
Though the Satanic Temple describes itself as a “non-theistic organization,” it is still considered by the state to be a religious organization and thus is given the same rights as more mainstream groups.
In order to fund the project, the Chicago Satanic Temple started a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $1,500; it raised just over that amount.
“The Satanic Temple—Chicago will no longer allow one religious perspective to dominate the discourse in the Illinois State Capitol rotunda during the holiday season,” reads the GoFundMe page. “We are raising funds for the sculpting, casting, construction, transportation, and installation of a Snaketivity display titled ‘Knowledge Is the Greatest Gift.’ Please consider what you may do to help us bring Satan to Springfield! Any additional proceeds to benefit The Satanic Temple—Chicago.”
The page also includes a “Satanic Christmas carol” providing a mocking version of “O Holy Night”:
This isn’t the first Satanic display the group has successfully erected in a public space, as Michigan residents know. The organization is currently strong-arming Arkansas to install its infamous statue of the goat-headed Baphomet as a protest of the Ten Commandments monument at the Arkansas State Capitol.
“The statue of Baphomet, who is seated and accompanied by two smiling children, can’t be installed under a 2017 law that requires legislative sponsorship for all monuments,” KFSM reported in August. “The Satanic Temple has said it will sue the state, claiming religious discrimination.”
Since then, the Satanic Temple says its managed to get the go-ahead, though it still has a few “hurdles” to get through. “The Satanic Temple has been going through the application process to have our Baphomet statue on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol near a proposed statue of the Ten Commandments,” the organization said in its latest update on the project. “There are still more hurdles, but our site plan was approved.”
The Satanic Temple attempts to present itself as effectively an anti-religious social justice group. NPR notes that along with its trolling attempts to fully remove all religious references from public space, the group has also trademarked its images so it can take legal action against anyone who presents their Satanic imagery in an “evil” light:
Last month, the temple settled a lawsuit with Warner Bros. and Netflix, after a reboot of the teen witch show Sabrina used a copy of the goat-headed statue in an episode. The temple argued the statue “not only infringed on its copyright, but damaged its reputation by portraying the statue as evil,” The New York Times reported.