In an effort to make a statement against religious monuments on government property, members of the Satanic Temple of Detroit unveiled a statue of a goat-headed winged statue in Detroit on Saturday night.
The 9-foot-tall bronze statue of Baphomet made its public debut at a ticketed event in an industrial building near the Detroit River. The monument was revealed shortly before midnight as hundreds of supporters cheered and chanted “Hail Satan.”
Members of the Satanic Temple of Detroit viewed the unveiling as a victory; “a celebration of a group effort” that has taken several years to complete.
Not all Detroit residents were as pleased. The statue has been a point of contention in the Motor City for months, and demonstrations against it continued up until the last minute. Around 100 protesters turned out Saturday afternoon to pray and denounce the monument, calling it “disrespectful” to other religions.
Jex Blackmore, the director of the Satanic Temple of Detroit, says this backlash is the product of years of “deep misunderstanding” about Satanism.
“Satanism and the term ‘Satanic’ has been used a political tool to demonize individuals who have rebelled against systems of authority and power,” Blackmore said in a heated segment of WJBK-TV’s “Let it Rip.”
The Satanic Temple of Detroit is non-theistic and does not celebrate the Judeo-Christian representation of Satan, Blackmore said. The group’s website defines Satan as “a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.”
The Temple originally applied for the statue to be installed in 2012 near a Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds. After that application was denied, the Temple decided on Detroit, where the Satanic Temple is said to have a stronger-than-average congregation.
Blackmore said Saturday that temple members planned to transport the sculpture to Arkansas, where the governor recently signed a bill authorizing a Ten Commandments monument on the State Capitol's grounds.
This isn’t the Satanic Temple of Detroit’s first controversial demonstration. Last Christmas, the organization set up a “Snaketivity” scene outside the Michigan State Capitol in support of LGBT rights.
Blackmore said in an interview with MLive that these efforts are often seen as “trolling” for shock value. But she insists this is not the case.
“We are interested in positive and effective change,” Blackmore said. “And we're interested in positive conversation.”
Rev. David Bullock of the Greater St. Matthew Baptist Church expressed skepticism of Blackmore's stated intentions, instead saying that the statue makes a mockery of other religions.
“The statue is supposed to create a dialogue. Well, statues don’t talk. If you want to have a dialogue with other faiths, why not send an email in advance or knock on the door?” Rev. Bullock argued on “Let it Rip.” “It’s not creating a dialogue at all. It’s actually polarizing a large number of folks in the city of Detroit."
A large number of folks, maybe – but not all. Minister Todd Sanders of Strictly Biblical Bible Teaching Ministries says he believes the situation could be a great educational experience.
“The church can benefit from this because we can view this as an opportunity to get at the truth in terms of what the Satanic Temple believes,” Sanders told WWJ-TV. “I don’t think it’s anything we should be afraid of at all.”
The monument is the handiwork of Mark Porter, a New York City-based sculptor. He admitted to finding the task creepy at first, but growing more comfortable as time went on.
"I started thinking about it: Why don't I like it?" Porter said to the Detroit Free Press. "And then after looking at that every day for a year, it's just whatever. It could be Mickey Mouse.”