SPRINGFIELD (AP) – A local chapter of The Satanic Temple has been allowed to place a statue in the Illinois Capitol alongside holiday displays of a Nativity scene and a menorah.
The sculpture, called Knowledge is the Greatest Gift, depicts the forearm of a woman holding an apple, The State Journal-Register reported .
In its application for the display, The Satanic Temple-Chicago calls itself a nontheistic organization that aims to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” The group also rejects tyrannical authority and advocates for common sense and justice, the application said.
Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said the group has the same rights as other religious organizations to have a display in the rotunda.
“Under the Constitution, the First Amendment, people have a right to express their feelings, their thoughts,” Druker said. “This recognizes that.”
Druker said the state can’t censor the contents of a display that is not funded by taxpayer dollars because the Capitol rotunda is a public place.
The sculpture from The Satanic Temple isn’t the only display that challenges mainstream religious views.
The rotunda for several years has a sign from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation that states, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”
In 2008, a Springfield resident gained approval to install an aluminum Festivus pole in the rotunda, in part as a message to lawmakers that the Statehouse shouldn’t feature religious displays. Festivus, which represents an alternative to the commercialization of Christmas, became popularized through an episode of “Seinfeld” in 1997.