Angels we have heard on high? The Florida Capitol will feature a new display this holiday season with an angel plummeting into a fiery inferno with the caption, “Happy Holidays From The Satanic Temple.” According the Naples Daily News, state officials have approved this week the diorama of a falling angel as a holiday display after rejecting it last year as “grossly offensive.”
The Satanic Temple, along with Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, announced this week that Florida officials had agreed to allow the temple’s holiday display at the state capitol in Tallahassee from December 22-29, in an area designated as an open forum for private speech, reports the Washington Times. The Department of Management Services said the move came after a threatened lawsuit. Department spokesman Ben Wolf said the proposed display was “grossly offensive during the holiday season.”
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, based in Washington, D.C., said it sent a letter to the state on November 6, saying the temple had a First Amendment right to include its display among others in the rotunda. The group would sue the agency on behalf of the temple if the display was again rejected, citing arguments it made in an October 15 letter requesting approval, as previously reported by the Inquisitr.
Last year, the Satanic Temple sent in the required application to have its display on the rotunda, but received an emailed rejection notice in late December. The Naples Daily News says the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida wrote the state in January arguing the state violated the temple’s First Amendment rights by excluding it from last year’s collection of holiday displays.
“The ACLU of Florida trusts that if the state again chooses to make the Capitol Rotunda a public forum, open to all religious and political views, it will not repeat the mistake of exercising content-based or viewpoint-based discrimination,” it said in the letter.
A sign in the rotunda displays department Rule 60H-6.009, which “guarantees the opportunity for freedom of expression… in the public forum areas, such as the rotunda area on the plaza level of the Capitol, within and on the grounds of buildings.” The administrative rule requires parties to identify themselves, describe the “use intended” of an area, and include dates and times for displays and activities.
Past holiday displays in the rotunda have been comprised of a chair covered with decorative ribbon to represent the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a six-foot tall “Festivus” pole made from beer cans. Presentations this year, along with the Satanic Temple, include a banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nativity scene from the Florida Prayer Network, and a placard from American Atheists with a message to “celebrate the true meaning of Xmas,” including “friends,” “fun,” and “Chinese food.”