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Bryant says she did not intend to say Satanists 'are not welcome' in the Capitol

State Rep. Terri Bryant has introduced a resolution in the Illinois House condemning the decision by the Illinois Secretary of State to allow The Satanic Temple-Chicago to place a statue in the Statehouse rotunda along with displays that celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah.

Terri Bryant mugshot

Bryant

Bryant, a Republican from Murphysboro, said in a news release that hundreds of constituents have called her office to complain about the statue, which is called "Knowledge is the Greatest Gift" and depicts the forearm of a young woman holding an apple.

Bryant said in the release her resolution would send a message that the House "as a body, reject and condemn the decision to allow this disgusting display at our Capitol."

According to reporting by the Springfield State Journal-Register, the structure is about 4 1/2 feet tall; there is a rectangular base and the arm and apple portion is about 18 inches long.

Dave Severin mugshot

Severin

State Rep. Dave Severin, a Republican from Benton, co-sponsored House Resolution 1355 with Bryant.

"I believe the decision to allow a Satan worship sculpture to be placed alongside emblems of the faiths of the Jewish people and Christians is a grave mistake and sends the wrong message during this time of reflection and celebration," Bryant said in the release. 

The Capitol rotunda also features a Nativity scene and a Menorah. A statement from Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is also in the rotunda, according to the State Journal-Register. That statement marks the winter solstice and says: "Religion is but a myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."

A secretary of state spokesman told the State Journal-Register that the Satanic group has the right, like other religious organizations, to display its statue in the rotunda. The state can't censor the content of displays that are not tax-funded in the rotunda because it is considered a public place. 

Paul Schimpf

Paul Schimpf

State Sen. Paul Schimpf on Dec. 7 shared a letter on his Facebook page that he said he sent to Secretary of State Jesse White asking him to remove the statue.

In the letter, Schimpf wrote that the statue should not have been approved because it does not celebrate or recognize the observance of a specific religious holiday.

"Instead, the display seeks to provoke and antagonize members of the Christian and Jewish faiths," Schimpf wrote. "As such, you (White) would have been well within your discretion to deny that display request."

Bryant said her resolution is careful not to call for the removal of the statue because it is protected by the First Amendment. But Bryant argued that she also has a right to free speech in officially expressing her distaste for it.

"First of all, the people that placed that statue are not celebrating anything, but rather building a small shrine to Satan in a public place in order to divide people and gin up reaction," Bryant said.

According the State Journal-Register's Dec. 3 story, the group's application to place the statue states the group is "a non-theistic organization, the mission of which is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will."

"If the Satanists are protected by the First Amendment and are allowed to place that statue in our Capitol during this holiday season," Bryant said, "then I am certainly within my rights both as an American and as a state representative to say that Satan or his worshipers are not welcome in the Illinois Capitol."

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Local news editor

Alee Quick is the local news editor for thesouthern.com, and the editor of weekly local entertainment guide Scene618. She is a columnist and a member of The Southern Illinoisan editorial board.

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