Satanic Temple fires early shots in 'war on Christmas' to ensure time for legal challenges
Satanic Temple display (Department of Management Services)

For the second year in a row, the Satanic Temple will attempt to have its "holiday display" erected alongside the more traditional Nativity scenes and Christmas arrangements in the Florida Capitol, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

The display consists of a kiosk in which Satan -- depicted in his angelic form -- is seen descending into a sea of fire. It includes two biblical verses, Luke 10:18, which reads, "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning falling from Heaven," and Isaiah 14:12, "How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!"

Across the top, it implores viewers to have a "Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple."

When the Department of Management Services (DMS) rejected the display as being "grossly offensive" last year, Andrew Seidel of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) said that "the government has decided that one biblical scene is offensive and one biblical scene is acceptable. And legally speaking I don't think they have a leg to stand on."

Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves insisted that it was "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."

In order to make sure that any legal challenge against the display can be met in a timely fashion, Greaves said that "this year, we're submitting our display early, with plenty of time to confront any objections or concerns. In a nation that respects religious liberty, viewpoint discrimination is simply intolerable."

"For that reason," he added, "we feel our holiday display sends a very important, affirmative message that goes above and beyond that of superficial season's greetings. It's a message of religious freedom, and Church/State separation expressed in the State's neutrality."

The Satanic Temple has also enlisted the aid of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS), which will release a letter later this week urging Florida obey the letter of the law.

"Once the state has opened up a public forum they can't say we like these messages and we don't like those," AUSCS attorney Gregory Lipper told the Democrat. "Once they have that forum they can't pick and among religions."