Satanic Temple to install Sol Invictus holiday display at state Capitol rotunda

The state Capitol rotunda will have a satanic display alongside other religious art for a third year. The Satanic Temple is returning with an art installation to celebrate the “satanic holiday” of Sol Invictus.

The group conducts advocacy for reproductive rights and the separation of church and state as a tax-exempt religious organization.

This year’s display will feature the “satanic deity” Baphomet, depicted as a swaddling babe. It was designed by Albuquerque-based horror artist Chris P. Andres.

Bishop Paprocki: Satanic displays 'should have no place in this Capitol'

The exhibition will be installed at 1 p.m. Monday in the Capitol rotunda, overseen by The Satanic Temple’s Illinois congregation.

"This year's tradition marks a greater urgency in the Baphomet's message of harmony and reconciliation," noted The Satanic Temple's Director of Campaign Operations Erin Helian in a press release.

The group’s displays have courted controversy, particularly from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and its head, Bishop Thomas Paprocki. He recently oversaw the installation of a nativity scene in the Capitol rotunda. At the event, Paprocki said satanic displays "should have no place in this Capitol or any other place."

“Mocking the millions of Christians in the state of Illinois and billions around the world by depicting the baby Jesus this Christmas with the ‘satanic deity’ Baphomet is the very definition of evil and causing division, but that is to be expected from an organization that is in existence to troll people of faith,” said Andrew Hansen, a spokesperson for the diocese.

In 2020 none of the holiday displays, including the "Snaketivity" display from The Satanic Temple-Chicago, a Nativity scene to mark the Christmas season or a Menorah to mark Hanukkah were set out at the state Capitol because of COVID-19-related closures.

Despite the diocese’s public criticism of the group, it said the bishop is welcome to attend the installation.

“We have invited Bishop Paprocki to hold hands with members of The Satanic Temple while we come together and stand before all of the religious displays at the rotunda,” said Helian.

Paprocki will not be going.

“Bishop Paprocki declines the invitation to associate with evil and urges all people of true religious faith to shun the devil,” Hansen said.

“That’s not very unity of him,” said Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple, when told about Paprocki declining the invitation.

Lucian Greaves

“Our real message is to reestablish pluralism,” said Greaves. “It doesn’t mean that people with opposing viewpoints have to be in conflict.”

When asked if The Satanic Temple has faced any other pushback for these kinds of displays in Illinois, Greaves pointed out that in 2018 then-state Sen. Paul Schimpf called for the group’s 2018 display to be removed. Despite that, Greaves said that his group received backing from people who said that Schimpf went too far.

“That was the first time commentators, pundits, column writers were on our side,” he said.

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In addition to installing displays in statehouses in several states, The Satanic Temple’s advocacy includes using religious freedom laws to demand exemption from abortion restrictions on religious grounds and hosting after-school programs as an alternative to similar Christian initiatives.

Since 2018, The Satanic Temple has installed displays at the state Capitol. In 2019, it installed “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift.” It depicted the forearm of Eve from the biblical story of the Garden of Eden alongside an apple and snake. The group did not have an installation last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Satanic Temple to install holiday display at Illinois state Capitol