SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – A controversial holiday exhibit has returned to the Illinois Capitol.
Each year, the Secretary of State’s office allows different religions to put up holiday displays in the capitol’s rotunda to celebrate their festivities. Joining a holiday tree, a Christian Nativity scene and a Jewish menorah is a display of Sol Invictus, put up by the Satanic Temple of Illinois on Tuesday.
Sol Invictus is a holiday on Dec. 25 to historically to celebrate Roman gods and now celebrates “being unconquered by superstition and consistent in the pursuit and sharing of knowledge,” according to the Satanic Temple’s website. This is the fourth year and third display for the Temple.
In 2018, the first year the Satanic Temple of Illinois displayed a representation of Sol Invictus in the Illinois Capitol, several lawmakers and religious leaders tried to remove their display. They also faced a protest of their baby Baphomet statue last year by a group of Christians.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution grants the freedom of speech – and the freedom of religious expression.
“The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars,” a sign by the displays reads. “Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content or speech of displays.”
Other religious displays have been around for longer. The Menorah has been displayed for 19 years, and one Rabbi who organized the said their celebration is special this year.
“This year is special is because on the Jewish calendar, there’s a cycle of seven years, every seventh year is called the Hakhel,” Rabbi Meir Moscowitz of Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois said. “This is the year of assembly. And coming at the at the end after the pandemic, it’s even more meaningful that we have an opportunity to assemble to come together.”
Members of each religious group enjoy the freedom to post their symbols in a public place with other religions. In years past, there was a Festivus pole, based on a holiday created for the sitcom Seinfeld.
“Religious plurality is one of the bedrocks of our society,” Minister Adam, a co-congregation head of Satanic Temple Illinois who did not provide his last name to WCIA, said.
“The message of Hanukkah is a message of light,” Moscowitz said. “It’s a message of religious freedom. It’s a message of inspiration. And therefore, we’re lucky that we live in a place that we have the ability to display our religion to display this message publicly.”
Bishop Thomas Paprocki, leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Springfield condemned the Satanic display, asking people to “reject the Devil’s lies and turn to Christ.” He openly criticized the decision last year to allow the rotunda to host the Satanic Temple.
“Christians look forward to eternal happiness with God in Heaven,” the bishop said. “Those who worship Satan are doomed to suffer the pains of hell with the Evil One and his minions forever. People are free to choose. I pray for the conversion of sinners and their eternal salvation.”
Paprocki is not involved with the group that puts up the Nativity scene.
Their Sol Invictus display this year is a statement on banned books. It includes a crocheted snake over crocheted apples and a book of “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” by astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, a book banned by the Catholic Church for 200 years for writing that the Earth revolves around the sun.
“The serpent of Genesis and the apples symbolizes that whole ‘forbidden knowledge’ sort of thing.” Adam said. “The book, obviously, is one that was banned, but also something that is really important to remember, which is that Copernicus himself was not actually persecuted by the church. Instead, he worked in harmony with them. And we like to see that this is an affirmation of our Satanic values, by existing in harmony with other religions.”