Satanic Temple tries again for Florida Capitol holiday display

(Photo: REUTERS / Chris Keane)Supporters listen to a speech by well-known atheist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins during the "Rock Beyond Belief" festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs. Organizers said they hoped the "Rock Beyond Belief" event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.

The New York-based Satanic Temple is again seeking to hold a display together with a number of religious exhibits in the Florida Capitol.

The group announced September 8 that "in a gesture of seasonal spirit and good will" it will ask the state Department of Management Services (DMS) to accept its display, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper reports.

Satanic Temple group was denied the opportunity last year after the department saw its entry as "grossly offensive."

The Satanic Temple describes its mission as an organized religion "is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people."

The display depicted an angel falling into a pit of fire and placards with two Bible verses on them.

The Temple's display was the only one denied a presence last year.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said that free speech had been violated in denying the display of the Satanic Temple.

At the same time others such as the banner from the Freedom of Religion Foundation, displays several atheist groups, and others such as one from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster were allowed.

When satanic group's display was denied, Greaves wrote to DMS, "It is not our intention to offend.

"Like the Nativity scene, it presents an image from a Biblical story, which is shared with other religious traditions besides our own. In addition, a positive sentiment of 'Happy Holidays' is displayed."

The group has sought the help of non-partisan group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is expected to release a letter calling on the state to ensure that plurality is respected.

AUSCS attorney Gregory Lipper revealed that the Temple wants to be included in the public forum the state has created to allow displays.

"We feel our holiday display sends a very important, affirmative message that goes above and beyond that of superficial season's greetings," Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said in a release.

Ben Wolf, a spokesman for the Department of Management Services, said that the agency has yet to receive Satanic Temple's application.

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