A Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission subcommittee has formally granted its approval for a public hearing on the Satanic Temple’s proposal to install a statue of Baphomet at the Arkansas State Capitol.
Senator Jason Rapert, a Republican, had earlier successfully lobbied for a Ten Commandments monument at the Capitol, and The Satanic Temple’s initiative is seen as a reaction to this move. Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, said, "If you are going to allow religious expression on public grounds, the government needs to remain neutral on viewpoint and they can't impose one religious belief over another."
Rapert had raised private funding for the Ten Commandments monument, and legislators gave their assent after a public hearing held by the same committee.
Greaves, representing The Satanic Temple, had made an appearance at the public hearing back then and opposed it. He further pointed out that it would be discriminatory. The government would have to bear the costs of removing the statue, should a court order it, he had argued. At the same hearing before the subcommittee, he announced The Satanic Temple’s intention to push for an 8.5-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet weighing 1.5 tons, “to counter the Ten Commandments monument.”
The fight has a history. A six-foot-tall Ten Commandments monument was once placed on the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2012. This was vandalized by a person with bipolar disorder, who claimed that “Satan made him do it.” In 2015, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma ruled that it was illegal and ordered the monument to be removed. The Satanic Temple had, in anticipation of a judgment that went the other way, readied a nine-foot-tall statue of Baphomet weighing a ton and costing $100,000 to build. Baphomet is represented as a goat-headed hermaphrodite deity with horns, flanked by two children – a boy and a girl – on either side.
After the verdict, there was no need for them to install this statue on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds. In 2015, the Ten Commandments Monument Act was passed by the Arkansas State Assembly. The monument was envisioned by Senator Jason Rapert as an exact replica of the one that stands on the Texas State Capitol grounds.