U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher aims his ire at The Satanic Temple tree at National Railroad Museum

The Satanic Temple of Wisconsin joined this year's Festival of Trees at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon. Although its name may shock some visitors, the organization says it represents peace, equality, empathy and an end to tyrannical thinking and injustice.
The Satanic Temple of Wisconsin joined this year's Festival of Trees at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon. Although its name may shock some visitors, the organization says it represents peace, equality, empathy and an end to tyrannical thinking and injustice.

ASHWAUBENON ‒ To finish off his segment with Fox News on the Israel-Hamas War and China's threat to national security, U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher aimed his ire at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon.

As part of its Festival of Trees this year, the nonprofit museum included a tree from The Satanic Temple of Wisconsin, decorated in red lights, pentacles and ornaments extolling LGBTQ+ pride, bodily autonomy and the power of reading.

Gallagher, R-Green Bay, said it's "impossible to overstate how offensive this is to Christians," and equated the temple's participation at the Festival of Trees with "waving a Hamas flag in a synagogue."

The temple's mission is "to encourage benevolence and empathy, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits," according to its website. The National Railroad Museum is a non-religious, private organization focused on the history of locomotives.

The National Railroad Museum defended its decision to allow the temple on a basis of anti-discrimination and noted that only six out of 66 organizations taking part in this year's exhibition are overtly Christian.

The museum declined to respond to the most recent outcry from conservative circuits Monday.

Why is there a Satanic tree at a holiday event?

The exhibition at the National Railroad Museum is an exercise in optics. Take, for example, the event name itself: It is called The Festival of Trees. Nowhere in its description does it explicitly refer to the trees as Christmas trees, which invites all sorts of creative interpretations.

A majority of the trees promote the businesses which decorated them. Internet service provider Bug Tussel uses the tree as the abdomen of its cartoon bug mascot. Green Bay Botanical Garden's tree bursts with wintry blooms. Another tree from Brown County's Community Development Block Grant Housing Program wears a hard hat in the place of a star.

Another misconception centers on what, exactly, members of the temple worship. Despite its name, members say they don't worship Satan.

"The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan," according to the temple's website. "To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions."

The Satanic Temple of Wisconsin joined this year's Festival of Trees at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon.
The Satanic Temple of Wisconsin joined this year's Festival of Trees at the National Railroad Museum in Ashwaubenon.

The organization's participation in this year's Festival of Trees is a celebration, not of Christmas. Rather, a spokesperson for the temple said, it celebrates Sol Invictus. The celebration, which translates to "Unconquered Sun" in Latin, has its roots in Ancient Rome but has since been co-opted by The Satanic Temple to celebrate the winter solstice and the idea of being unconquered by superstition.

Fox News calls on viewers to 'express outrage'

Gallagher told Fox News viewers that parents need to be "vigilant" against the rising tide of "woke ideology or offensive, upside-down cultural propaganda." The fury over the Satanic Temple's participation is about "trying to defend basic tradition," he said.

Gallagher also called The National Railroad Museum's response to parents and the public "insufficient."

"When parents and concerned citizens have contacted the railroad museum, they have said, 'Well, this is an educational opportunity for kids,' which is completely ridiculous," Gallagher told Fox News.

Jacqueline Frank, CEO of the National Railroad Museum, told Green Bay Press-Gazette Wednesday that concerned parents have the opportunity to use the presence of the temple's tree to discuss personal values.

"Children are going to come across this in other parts of their life, and maybe not with their parents," Frank said. "It's a good, very neutral way to be able to introduce these concepts and talk about what your personal beliefs are."

Gallagher could not be reached for comment.

A spokesperson for The National Railroad Museum said all future conversations on the matter would be handled internally, as museum employees have been inundated since Gallagher's appearance and the call from Fox News that "more parents should express outrage."

Natalie Eilbert covers mental health issues for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. She welcomes story tips and feedback. You can reach her at neilbert@gannett.com or view her Twitter profile at @natalie_eilbert. If you or someone you know is dealing with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or text "Hopeline" to the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Rep. Mike Gallagher offended by The Satanic Temple's holiday tree