The Satanic Temple is firing back at a bill in the Arkansas Legislature that would limit the public's ability to propose monuments for the state Capitol grounds. The Massachusetts based organization sent the state Secretary of State's office a letter on Thursday asserting that a as-yet-unscheduled public hearing on a monument to Baphomet go forward even if the bill becomes law.
Legislation passed in the Arkansas House (KUAR covered here) would narrow options for monument proposals from two channels to one. Proposals can currently begin either in the Legislature or through the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission. In 2015 a Ten Commandments monument was backed the Arkansas General Assembly and the process for its placement is ongoing. In response, the Satanic Temple proposed an 8 and a half foot bronze Satanic monument.
In the letter to the state, attorney Stuart de Haan argued even if the bill becomes law the current proposal shouldn't be halted since the process has already begun.
"To be clear, House Bill 1273, even if made effective immediately, cannot be applied ex post facto to The Satanic Temple's monument request, which is already in process. The procedural revision proposed by House Bill 1273 can only be legally applied to any and all monument requests submitted after its passage."
The letter goes on to address the primary reason for the Satanic monument being proposed, to draw a spotlight to what it calls the state of Arkansas's endorsement of a religion through the Ten Commandments monument.
"The clearest command of the Establishment Clause' of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment is "that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another."
If the state does apply the proposed law to the ongoing consideration of the Baphomet statue, Satanists pledge to fight back.
"The Satanic Temple will seek injunctive and declaratory relief for a non-discriminatory policy. Additional compensatory damages for the expenses incurred through this process would also be appropriate. Nominative and Punitive damages against those who have intentionally abused their government position to these ends would be considered. Finally, attorney's fees and costs associated with this lawsuit will also be sought."
The group wants an answer from the state within 30 days.