On a foggy Monday morning, the Florida Capitol is nearly inaccessible. With many offices winding down for the holidays, stairways and entrances are blocked off for construction projects or cleaning. But this didn’t stop a handful of Satanic Temple members from spreading their own brand of holiday cheer.
Temple members have been waiting a long time for this day. Their diorama depicting Lucifer falling to into hell was denied a place in the Capitol Rotunda last December, and Temple members believe it would’ve been denied again this year if not for the intervention of lawyers with Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
The morning opened with John Porgal, a member of the Satanic Temple in a heated exchange with a Department of Management Services official about the placement of the Satanic Temple’s holiday display.
Florida Prayer Network President Pam Olsen—the woman in charge of the nativity scene taken down Monday morning admits the Temple has the right to be there but she doesn’t like its message.
“I’m sad in the fact that I don’t think that does anything to bring hope, and peace, and joy to a country that needs the message of hope and peace and love that the prince of peace brings,” Olsen. “So I’m sad by that, but it’s his right.”
Olsen believes her network’s nativity spreads that message, but Temple members just see religion encroaching on government. And Porgal says they’d be willing to remove their display—so long as the nativity stayed out of the Rotunda, too.
“We said that basically if all these displays go away, ours will go away as well,” Porgal says, “and if the nativity scene never came in here in the first place, we would not have done this.”
So far as where to set up, Porgal says his group just wants equal treatment.
“I’m just not going to fight with them again this morning,” he says. “This is the place it needs to be: front-and-center just like the nativity scene. It’s where it needs to be.”
And if officials come later and move the display?
“I’ll come in here and move it back,” Porgal says. “I promise you that.”
The temple’s diorama will be up for seven days, but it won’t be accessible for the majority of that span. With the Capitol closing for weekends and holidays, visitors will only be able to see it for three of the seven days.