Before dawn this morning, five Satanists erected what they call a "snaketivity" on the east lawn of the state Capitol.
A fake snake coils its body around the display, which features the phrase “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge.”
Jex Blackmore is with the Satanic Temple of Detroit.
She says her group was inspired to ask for space on the Capitol lawn after hearing about plans for a Christian Nativity at the Capitol.
“We really didn’t … feel comfortable with just a Nativity scene being the only representation for the holidays on the Capitol grounds,” says Blackmore.
Blackmore says they were also inspired to act amid legislative debates over bills dealing with religious freedom and discrimination.
But Christians were outraged that a Satanist display would be allowed on the grounds of the state Capitol during the Christmas holidays.
On Friday, more than 50 people attended the setup of a small Nativity scene at the capitol. They formed a ring around the small statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and sang Christmas carols.
State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, spearheaded the effort to get the Christian nativity on the Capitol grounds.
“It represents the light and not the darkness,” says Jones. “We’re not afraid of the snake people and I’m sure Christ is not afraid of the snake.”
“I think that that kind of thinking is part of the problem here,” says Jex Blackmore.
Blackmore says there is a need for conversation about a diversity of beliefs in Michigan during the holiday season. She hopes the “snaketivity” will help spark that conversation.
“We also hope that it inspires other groups and other people who feel perhaps not represented,” says Blackmore.
There are concerns that the passions raised by the Satanist holiday display may inspire vandalism against the temporary display.
Security is in place to discourage vandalism of either display.
Small signs sit next to both displays saying the area is under video surveillance. Both displays are also required to be taken down each night.
“Anytime a group comes to the Capitol, our concern first and foremost is that they be able to assemble and express their rights and their beliefs, whether they be religious or social,” says Lt. Brody Boucher, commander of the Michigan State Police Capitol security section. “Our concern is we’re able to protect those individuals when they’re here.”
The Satanic “snaketivity” display will be up through Tuesday evening. The Christian Nativity will be up through Christmas Day.