The Satanic Temple will give Florida another chance after being blocked from putting up a holiday display last year, as the state intends to maintain its mostly open-door, first-come, first-served policy on Capitol displays.
Rather than institute a new policy that would limit displays as some expected, the state Department of Management Services is trying to make the application process easier for groups seeking to put up temporary displays in the Capitol complex.
And before a new online application process becomes available, a spokesman for the New York-based temple — which threatened a lawsuit after last year’s proposed display was deemed “grossly offensive” — says the group will again apply.
“I would definitely like to see The Satanic Temple submit a holiday display again this year,” temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said in an email Wednesday. “We’ll get to work early.”
Greaves added he was “completely mystified that no policy changes have been made.”
No reason was given by the Department of Management Services for holding pat on the display policy.
The application process was under review earlier this year, spurred by the diverse exhibits that dotted the Capitol rotunda during the holiday season.
Some of the displays included a pole made of empty beer cans to mark the sitcom-created Festivus holiday and a shredded pile of paper that was supposed to resemble the deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Meanwhile, the state denied the temple’s proposal that would have bannered the phrase “Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple” atop a diorama of an angel falling into hell.
The outburst of seasonal displays, from groups such as the Tallahassee Atheists and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, came in reaction to media coverage of the Florida Prayer Network’s introduction of a Christian nativity scene in the Capitol. The nativity joined a Hanukkah menorah and Christmas trees that have been displayed for years on the first floor of the Capitol.
Pam Olsen, president of the Florida Prayer Network, praised the state agency decision to maintain the space as an open forum for views.
“It’s the people’s building, any Capitol is where the people gather and make their voice heard and it should stay free,” Olsen said.
The Department of Management Services limits the height of displays based on where they are located in the rotunda and prohibits displays from blocking permanent memorials such as the Civil Rights and Veterans halls of fame. Also, the department will allow displays as long as there is available space, but does have rules against noise and impeding official business.
The display issue came up this week as DMS started to run a seven-minute tutorial video on its website Wednesday about what is expected to be a streamlined application process.
The new online application is expected to go live Monday.
Department spokesman Ben Wolf said the change from paper applications is “to make it more efficient for the public.”
While the Satanic Temple, is making plans to apply, others are less committal. Olsen said her group has a number of projects planned for the coming year at the Capitol, but wants to wait until the new application process is in place to commit to bringing the nativity scene back.
“It’s in my calendar to look at the tutorial and figure it out,” Olsen said. “It’s going to be a busy year, with lots and lots of prayer events and things happening.”
South Florida political blogger Chaz Stevens, who found space for a 6-foot-tall “Festivus” pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, also remained non-committal about returning to Tallahassee this year.
Stevens has posted on his website that he’d like to once again install the beer can pole in the Capitol rotunda. However, in an email on Wednesday Stevens said he may not apply but “just want to make sure my options.”
Stevens’ irreverent display was in opposition to the nativity scene and to make a point about the need for a separation between church and state.
Festivus is a “holiday” created for the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” as a non-commercial festival “for the rest of us” in the Christmas and year-end holiday season.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida