Satanist in Florida say that they will file a lawsuit this week to force officials to allow a religious display alongside traditional Christmas nativity scenes in the Florida Capitol.
Last year, Florida’s Department of Management Services rejected a request from the Satanic Temple for a display showing an angel falling into a pit of hell, saying that it was “grossly offensive during the holiday season.” The display would have stood alongside the Christian nativity scene.
“The Department may not, as it did last year, reject the Satanic Temple’s display—even if the department finds the display to be ‘offensive,'” Americans United for Separation of Church and State legal counsel noted in a letter to state officials in October. “A rejection of the proposed display would violate the Free Speech Clause, Establishment Clause, and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Management Services has allowed nativity scenes, and even a Festivus pole made of beer cans in previous years. The official state rules do not mention that holiday displays must not be “grossly offensive.”
And according to Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling means that officials will have a tough time arguing that Satanists are trying to offend Christians.
“In the recent Hobby Lobby case, the court considered the claims of Christians who said they believed that IUDs cause abortions, even though they emphatically do not,” Stern explained. “The court’s five conservatives refused to even consider the plaintiffs’ sincerity, simply taking it on faith that their protestations were genuine.”
“With Hobby Lobby, the court may have inadvertently stripped itself of the ability to question plaintiffs’ beliefs whatsoever—unless the justices want to flagrantly favor Christian plaintiffs.”
According to WUSF, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State will argue in its lawsuit later this week that the state is violating the constitutional rights of Satanists.
In total, five groups have applied to erect displays in the Capitol during the holiday season, including two nativity scenes.
Watch the video below from KTNV, broadcast in Dec. 2013.