The Satanic Temple of Detroit has announced it plans to re-erect its controversial Snaketivity display on the Michigan Capitol lawn in an attempt to counter a live Nativity scene planned by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign.
According to a report from M-Live, the Cruz Nativity and Christmas caroling is planned for the evenings of Dec. 12 and 13, encouraging "families to come together and celebrate the birth of Christ." Then, on Dec. 19, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, hopes to host his own Christian nativity scene in the same area.
In response, Jex Blackmore, director of the Detroit Satanist group, said at a religious liberty rally at the Capitol that they were waiting for approval from the Michigan State Capitol Commission to perform a live display of their own -- also on Dec. 19.
"The overriding message in our holiday display, and many of The Satanic Temple's public activities, is one of plurality and religious liberty," Blackmore said in a written statement. "We have no interest in proselytizing Satanism to the public. However, we refuse to allow one religious perspective (to) dominate the discourse. For that reason, When there is one religious display on public grounds, we'll offer another, and we urge other minority voices to do the same."
This is the second year the group has attempted to erect its Snaketivity scene at the Michigan Capitol. Instead of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, the display includes a red serpent, a pentagram with a goat head and a cross with "Knowledge is the Greatest Gift of All" written across it. It also depicts a snake wrapped around the Satanic cross, presenting a book as a holiday gift
Speaking to M-Live, Jones said the Satanic Temple's attempts to divert from the nativity scene are disturbing, but acknowledged the group's First Amendment rights.
"We have freedom of religion in this state, and if you wish to worship that dark side, that is your privilege," Jones said. "I'm advising the folks that have asked me to put up the nativity to ignore the snaketivity. I know to some people, it's upsetting."
He later told the Lansing State Journal, "Satanic people, every time they hear of a Nativity at a Capitol, they strike out, they want to hijack the Christmas season...So they are as offensive as possible...that's OK, we don't care. I'm not afraid of the snake people and I'm sure Jesus Christ isn't afraid."
In an emailed statement, Wendy Day, Michigan state director for the Cruz campaign, echoed Jones' sentiments.
"Freedom of speech may be inconvenient, messy, and at times offensive, but that is the cost of living in a free country," she wrote. "America was founded on the principles of free speech and freedom of religion ... We don't have to agree on religious principles to stand together for the right of free speech."
The Journal notes that the Capitol Commission would be obligated to approve the Snaketivity display so long as it meets the commission's guidelines, which limit the size of the display and prohibit permanent displays. Like last year, the Snaketivity display would have to be placed and removed daily.