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Satanists want to build monument

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By The Christian Science Monitor
Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY — A group of Satan worshippers says the Oklahoma Legislature's decision in 2009 to allow a privately funded monument to the Ten Commandments on the state Capitol grounds means they should have equal access to build a monument.

The Satanic Temple of New York has alerted the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to build a $20,000 monument on statehouse grounds. The temple will submit plans this month for a monument in “good taste” — which an official describes as a marker with a pentagram or an interactive display for children, according to the Associated Press.

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, a Republican, said the idea was preposterous. “These Satanists are a different group. You put them under the nut category.”

Precedent suggests federal courts might not take the same view about Oklahoma's Ten Commandments monument or Satanists' claim of equal rights.

In a 2005 case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Satanists and followers of white-supremacist religions, saying that a federal law to protect prisoners' religious liberties protected theirs, too.

In two cases decided the same year, the Supreme Court issued a split ruling on the question of religious monuments on public property.

On one hand, the court decided 5-to-4 that a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the Texas Capitol could remain. But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, noted that the monument existed for 40 years before eliciting legal complaint. The grounds of the Texas Capitol include a variety of monuments. This, in Justice Breyer's view, made the monument more historical than religious.

On the other hand, the court decided 5-to-4 that copies of the Ten Commandments on the walls of two Kentucky courthouses ran afoul of the constitutional separation of church and state. In a concurring opinion, Breyer noted that the Kentucky monuments sparked legal action almost immediately.

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