Last year the Florida State Capitol Building became home to a Nativity scene, a Festivus Pole, three signs from atheist groups, and an homage to the Flying Spaghetti Monster:
Mind you, the display was simply a depiction of a Bible passage, just like every Nativity scene, but the state’s guidelines were so hazy that it caused a lot of confusion.
That led to questions about what state officials would do this year. Would they allow all groups to have displays? Would they cut them all off entirely? Would they just (illegally) allow Christian displays?
Something had to change. But, since this is Florida, nothing did:
No reason was given by the Department of Management Services for holding pat on the display policy.
The application process was under review earlier this year, spurred by the diverse exhibits that dotted the Capitol rotunda during the holiday season.
Earlier today, Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the Florida Department of Management Services on behalf of the Satanic Temple. Simply put, it says state officials can’t deny the Satanists’ monument this year:
Given the manner in which the Department of Management Services rejected the Satanic Temple’s application last year, we remind the Department of its obligations under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 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.” 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.
Executive Director Rev. Barry W. Lynn added:
“Government officials have no right to determine what is ‘offensive’ when it comes to religion,” Lynn said. “If public space is open to all, that must include groups that some people may not like.”
A Satanic Temple representative announced last week that the group wanted to put up the same display in the Capitol that was proposed last year. If he submits the paperwork now, there’s plenty of time for officials to get this right. There’s just no excuse to say no to one group when they already say yes to everyone else.
(Portions of this article were posted earlier. Thanks to Brian for the link)