Florida Becomes the Front Line in the War on Christmas

The Satanists lost this battle, but it won’t be the last.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Dec. 20, 2013, 5:08 a.m.

The Week‘s Jon Ter­bush wrote re­cently that the war on Christ­mas is over and the sec­u­lar­ists have won, cit­ing new polls show­ing that Christ­mas has gradu­ally be­come less of a re­li­gious hol­i­day and more of a cul­tur­al one. “Young­er Amer­ic­ans are far less likely than older ones to view Christ­mas as a re­li­gious hol­i­day,” he writes.

While it’s true the fight is no longer the cul­tur­al flash point it once was, its leg­acy re­mains in on­go­ing loc­al battles over re­li­gious ex­pres­sion in schools and on gov­ern­ment prop­erty. One such battle is play­ing out now in Flor­ida.

Flor­ida of­fi­cials at­trac­ted the ire of athe­ists this hol­i­day sea­son when they erec­ted a Nativ­ity scene in their state Cap­it­ol ro­tunda, and for a minute it looked like Christ­mas was go­ing to get a taste of its own medi­cine. Sec­u­lar groups quickly moved to erect their own monu­ments to athe­ism along­side baby Je­sus, suc­cess­fully in­stalling a Fest­ivus pole (read: a stack of empty beer cans) as well as a Fly­ing Spa­ghetti Mon­ster.

But Flor­ida state of­fi­cials drew the line at Satan­ists. After get­ting an ini­tial go-ahead, the Satan­ic Temple of Flor­ida was all set to put up its dis­play when it re­ceived an email from the state’s De­part­ment of Man­age­ment Ser­vices call­ing the dis­play “grossly of­fens­ive.” The design Satan­ists sub­mit­ted, fea­tured above, de­picts a scene from Isai­ah 14:12 that some in­ter­pret as the mo­ment when Satan was cast down to earth, or “born.” The text reads: “How you have fallen from heav­en, O star of the morn­ing, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the na­tions!”

Lu­cien Greaves, spokes­man for the Satan­ic Temple, said the Satan­ist design ad­heres to every guideline re­quired by the state. “Our pro­posed struc­ture does not present any im­ages that would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for people of any age,” Greaves wrote in an email to state of­fi­cials. “Like the Nativ­ity scene, it presents an im­age from a bib­lic­al story, which is shared with oth­er re­li­gious tra­di­tions be­sides our own. In ad­di­tion, a pos­it­ive sen­ti­ment of ‘Happy Hol­i­days’ is dis­played.” Greaves is still wait­ing on a re­sponse.

A few days be­fore Christ­mas, the war rages on …

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