Michigan's Capitol Building is currently displaying Satanic and Christian holiday exhibits at the same time, after the state attorney general's office advised that the Satanic Temple has a constitutional right to put up holiday decorations. Does this controversy sound like the set-up for a movie starring Ben Stiller to anyone else?
The Michigan State Capitol building first attracted attention when it almost only showed the Satanic exhibit because the original Christian one failed to meet Michigan's rules for display, according to NPR. One of the state requirements includes dismantling the exhibit by 11 p.m. every night, and when the original, out-of-state organizer for the Christian scene realized he couldn't obey the rule, he was on the verge of withdrawing his request. Meanwhile, the Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple filed for a permit to put up their own display "as a message about religious freedom and inclusiveness," which is pretty par for the course for the organization. (The Florida chapter blazed the trail for holiday displays earlier this month.) The Satanic Temple exhibit contains a pentagram and a snake, as well as the phrase, "The Greatest Gift is Knowledge," which is ironically much less hellfire-and-brimstone than a lot of the displays I've seen around Christmas in Georgia.
When local Christians realized that the Satanic Temple might be the only religious display at the Capitol building this year, they scrambled to put up their own exhibit. Volunteers have offered to take it down by the required time every night and put it back up every morning, meaning that now the Capitol has a Nativity scene on display right next to the Satanic Temple exhibit. Facility Director Dan Brocklehurst admitted to NPR that it's "new territory" for the Capitol, but they're committed to making sure neither display gets vandalized.
As for the Satanists? They're pretty amused by all the hand-wringing. Director of the Detroit chapter Jex Blackmore told NPR that she's hoping it will be a wake-up call for the state legislature, who recently passed the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act that legalizes discrimination based on religion, sexuality, and a whole host of other characteristics. Blackmore stated that the bill " doesn't account for the multiple religions that may seek privilege and exemption under its umbrella." She went on to say that she's expecting many more Satanic displays around the country next holiday season, and unless the First Amendment changes sometime soon, there's nothing government officials or local religious groups can do to stop them.
So be on the lookout! Next year, your local Nativity scene might have a competitor.