Thursday, December 19, 2013

"Grossly offensive" Satanic holiday display banned from Capitol rotunda

When it comes to holiday displays at the Florida Capitol, the line is drawn at the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The state Department of Management Services on Wednesday denied a request by "Satanists" to set up a holiday exhibition in the Florida Capitol, which now displays a Nativity scene, a Festivus pole of empty beer cans, posters from atheists, and a crudely-made cardboard Flying Spaghetti Monster.

"The department's position is that your proposed display is grossly offensive during the holiday season," said DMS Administrative Assistant Sherrie K. Routt in an email to a group called The Satanic Temple.

Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said the group was "surprised and dismayed" by the government's refusal. Before they challenge the DMS decision, he is asking for further clarification from the agency.

Florida officials initially advised the Temple that they had approved the display and "written confirmation is forthcoming," according to Greaves. The request was to put a 5-foot-by-5-foot poster in the rotunda on Dec. 9 featuring "religious symbols and images."

The group explained in the application that it was a public service to "contribute to the plurality of the community by representing the spirit of good will from other faiths." They then sent the DMS a photo of the proposed presentation, which says "Happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple" atop a panorama of an angel falling into hell.

One side has a Bible passage (Luke 10:18) that includes the phrase, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

The controversy started on Dec. 3, when the Florida Prayer Network installed a Christian Nativity scene at the Capitol rotunda. Soon afterwards, the DMS approved the requests for a 6-foot-tall "Festivus" pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans by South Florida-based blogger Chaz Stevens as well a number of seasonal signs sponsored by the Tallahassee Atheists, The American Atheists Florida Regional Directors and Freedom From Religion Foundation from Madison, Wis.

On Tuesday, the DMS also approved a display of an office chair and shredded-paper made to look like spaghetti, coming from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which satirizes creationism.

This isn't the first time "Satanists" ran afoul ofTallahassee officials. In January, about six self-proclaimed "devil worshippers" gathered at the steps of the Old Capitol in an event "praising" Gov. Rick Scott, which was later thought to be an attempt to make a fake documentary.
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