A WIN IN COURT: For The Satanic Temple. It has been allowed to intervene in a court challenge of the 10 Commandments monument at the Capitol. It wants it removed, or in the alternative, for its Baphomet statue to be installed.

The Satanic Temple has been allowed to enter the lawsuit challenging the 10 Commandments monument at the state Capitol on the ground that refusal of its request to install a Baphomet monument was a violation of their constitutional equal protection right.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU had previously sued over the commandments tablet, a project instigated by Sen. Jason Rapert.

Monday, federal Judge Kristine Baker granted the request to intervene by the Satanic Temple and two of its representatives, Douglas Misciko and Erika Robbins. She dismissed an earlier intervention motion and gave them a week to amend their motion. Secretary of State Mark Martin had been fighting the intervention. Baker said the intervenors had met the standard for standing to participate.

She said the Satanic Temple had demonstrated an injury — making it more difficult for a member of one group to obtain a benefit than members of another group. She noted the change in state law to require General Assembly approval of placement of monuments on the grounds, at a time when the Temple had an application for a monument pending before the Capitol grounds commission. She wrote:

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As an organization whose “function is to actively provide outreach, to lead by example,
and to participate in public affairs wheresoever the issues might benefit from rational, Satanic insights,” the Court concludes that the Satanic Temple has demonstrated a cognizable interest in the placement of a Baphomet Monument on the State Capitol grounds.

Second, the Court concludes that the Satanic Temple has suffered an injury-in-fact to that interest due to: (1) the enactment of the Ten Commandments Monument Display Act, which exempted the Ten Commandments Monuments from the Commission approval process, and (2) the enactment of Act 274 of 2017, which forced the Satanic Temple to first seek legislative approval for its Baphomet Monument, a change from the prior process for approval in which the Satanic Temple had been engaged. Essentially, as the Court understands the allegations of the proposed amended complaint in intervention, the proposed intervenors allege that both of these statutory enactments denied the Satanic Temple an equal opportunity to compete with the Ten Commandments Monument regarding placement upon the State Capitol grounds. Accordingly, the Court finds that the Satanic Temple has sufficiently demonstrated an equal protection injury in-fact based upon a denial of an equal opportunity to place the Baphomet Monument on the State
Capitol grounds.

The judge also said the intervenors had sufficiently linked the action to defendant Mark Martin. She noted that these findings didn’t constitute a judgment on merits, but only in support of standing to challenge the monument and Baphomet’s exclusion.

The judge also said the intervenors made a proper motion for redress — an injunction against the 10 Commandments or an order to clear Baphomet on the Capitol grounds. She rejected the state’s argument of immunity.

The judge explicitly approved the intervention of the individuals as well.

Ms. Robbins and Mr. Misicko both state that they are practicing members of the Satanic Temple. Like the Satanic Temple, Ms. Robbins and Mr. Misicko allege that they are injured as a result of the “special exemptions to the zoning and Arts and Grounds Commission requirements for the Ten Commandments Monument” that were not extended to the Baphomet Monument). They also allege that the motivation behind Act 274 of  2017 was “to usurp [t]he Satanic Temple a fair opportunity for the erection of the Baphomet Monument.” Both of them also allege that they are “personally affected by the Ten Commandments [M]onument” because they perceive it to be “exclusionary” to their religious beliefs). Further, they both allege that the placement of the Baphomet Monument upon the State Capitol ground would encourage them “to visit these public grounds.”

The judge also granted the intervenors’ request to challenge the violation of the Constitution’s clause against promoting the establishment of religion. Martin argued that the Satanic Temple was a “satirical parody” and sham religion. Said Baker:

The law regarding standing permits the Court to inquire whether the pleading reflects a “sham” or “frivolity.”  The Court will inquire whether the proposed intervenors have engaged in a sham or frivolity, but the Court is not convinced that this inquiry reaches to whether the proposed intervenors’ beliefs constitute a religion or whether their beliefs are “sincerely held” as that phrase is used in precedent

She added:

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Controlling law does not require this Court when assessing standing to bring an Establishment Clause claim to examine the religious beliefs and sincerity of the religious beliefs of the claimant, given that the United States Supreme Court has recognized that the protection of the Establishment Clause applies to religion and nonreligion, as well as between religion and religion.

A significant ruling, it appears. Jack Matirko, a writer at the Patheos website on religious issues, noted that Rapert had said earlier this year that it would be a cold day in hell when a Baphomet statue was erected at the Capitol.

If that’s true, with this ruling hell just got a few degrees cooler and Rapert should start considering the wider ramifications of climate change. 

The 10 Commandment monument now in place is the second version paid by private contributions to an organization headed by Rapert for which he has yet to disclose financial particulars. The first was mowed down by a Dodge Dart driven by a man who’d similarly destroyed a nearly identical monument in Oklahoma. An Oklahoma court has upheld the right of the Satanic Temple to have a statue at that state’s capitol if the 10 commandments monument was allowed.

A feel a Facebook video stemwinder from Rapert is in the offing.