CARBONDALE — State Rep. Terri Bryant says she did not intend to say Satanists are not welcome in the Capitol.
A statement from Bryant's office Wednesday explaining why she introduced a house resolution condemning a statue in the Capitol rotunda by The Satanic Temple-Chicago included the quote "Satan or his worshipers are not welcome in the Illinois Capitol."
Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, said in an interview Thursday that she did not intend to say that, and the release containing that quote was sent to the newspaper in error.
"It's not right and it's not what my intentions are," she said.
The newspaper received the release in an email from Bryant's office at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday. A document attached to the email contained the release, and the release was also pasted into the body of the email. But, the language in the two differed.
It is the newspaper's policy to refer to documents attached to emails as well as body text.
The original document attributed this quote to Bryant: "... I am certainly within my rights as an American and as a state representative to say that Satan or his worshipers are not welcome in the Illinois Capitol."
Three and a half hours later, another email from Bryant's office indicated the first release had been sent in error. The second version of the news release did not contain the "not welcome" quote.
In its place, the second version quoted Bryant as such: "... I am certainly within my rights as an American and as a state representative to say that poking a finger in the eye of people of the Jewish and Christian faiths at Christmas, though it may be legal, certainly does not make it right."
Bryant said her communications staff prepared the first release, and she rejected the "one little section where it says that people are not welcome in the Capitol."
"Everyone is welcome in the Capitol," she said.
She asked her communications staff to change the language, but the first version was distributed to the media by mistake.
"It's not what I intended to have as my quote," Bryant said.
"I don't like it, because I'm pretty inclusive most of the time," Bryant said. "And I try to be very nonpartisan when I can, but, you know, I am an Evangelical Christian, and I'm offended by the statue."
"Not the statue being in the rotunda ... but the fact that someone had felt like that was an appropriate time to have it there."
The statue in question was placed in the rotunda by the Chicago chapter of The Satanic Temple, and shows the forearm and hand of a young woman, encircled by a snake and holding an apple. An inscription on its base says: "Knowledge is the Greatest Gift." According to a news release from The Satanic Temple-Chicago, the statue is titled "Snaketivity."
It is displayed in the Capitol rotunda next to a Nativity scene for Christmas and a Menorah for Hanukkah. According to a Dec. 3 story in the Springfield State Journal-Register, a spokesman from the Illinois Secretary of State's Office said the Satanic group has the right to put up its display in the rotunda just like other religious organizations. The story also says the state can't censor displays in the rotunda as long as they are not funded by taxpayers, because it's a public place.
"They have the right to have it there," Bryant said. "But this isn't the right time to do it," she said, citing Christmastime as a holy time for Christians.
In a Dec. 6 news release The Satanic Temple-Chicago said the statue's design "keeps with The Satanic Temple's values of advocating knowledge and rationality over superstition, ignorance and dogma."
That release also describes the temple as "a non-theistic religious organization determined to halt the dangerous encroachment of theocracy into American government."
State Rep. Dave Severin, a Republican from Benton, is Bryant's chief co-sponsor on the house resolution, which Bryant said would send a message that the House "as a body, reject and condemn the decision to allow this disgusting display at our Capitol."
State Sen. Paul Schimpf, a Republican from Waterloo, also condemned the statue. He posted on Facebook on Dec. 7 that he had sent a letter to Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White asking him to remove the statue.