As you may recall, the FFRF and ACLU were the first to file lawsuits against the Arkansas 10 Commandments monument; TST filed their competing claim as an intervenor in their lawsuits on the grounds that TST has a similar complaint and that the State discriminated against their Baphomet monument. While FFRF and the ACLU were arguing about the unconstitutionality of the 10 Commandments monument absent competing religious views in the same public forum, TST’s remedy would involve the permanent installation of their Baphomet monument to offer a pluralistic counterpoint to the already existing statue. All of this is because the 10 Commandments monument was railroaded through the Arkansas legislature at the behest of Arkansas State Senator Stanley “Jason” Rapert.
The Satanic Temple has Standing: “Demonstrated Injury-in-fact”
Today’s court ruling states that TST’s claim of unfair treatment by the State of Arkansas is legitimate and that they are allowed to bring their lawsuit along with the ACLU and the FFRF against Arkansas. TST is seeking to either have the 10 Commandments monument taken down (which would satisfy all 3 complaints), or to have the Baphomet monument installed (which would satisfy the TST complaint and demonstrate inclusivity on Arkansas part … so I’m not entirely sure what that would do to the ACLU or FFRF complaints).
From the Ruling: The Baphomet Case has Standing in the ACLU and FFRF Complaint
“For the following reasons, the Court finds that the Satanic Temple has demonstrated Article III standing to bring claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Translation: Yes, The Satanic Temple has standing to bring a lawsuit in this case.
“The Court finds that the Satanic Temple has sufficiently demonstrated an equal protection injury-in-fact based upon a denial of an equal opportunity to place the Baphomet Monument on the State Capitol grounds. The Satanic Temple alleges that it is injured as a result of the “special exemptions to the zoning and Arts and Grounds Commission requirements for the Ten Commandments Monument” that were not extended to the Baphomet Monument. It also argues that by “placing the Ten Commandments Monument but refusing to place the Baphomet Monument, the State has engaged in unlawful disparate treatment on the basis of religion.”
Ok this part gets a little complicated. Basically TST has said that because the 10 Commandments monument was approved, and then the rules were changed to prevent a vote on the Baphomet monument under the same rules, that TST wasn’t treated fairly by the State. The court agrees that this is a legitimate complaint. That doesn’t speak to the ACLU and FFRF’s claim regarding the unconstitutionality of the 10 Commandments monument in the first place, but it does say that the court has to hear TST’s side of the story out, and quite possibly Arkansas may be forced to decide whether their public forum is inclusive (in which case the Baphomet monument could be installed), or whether the State’s 10 Commandments monument would come down. I certainly don’t see a third option for Arkansas at any rate.
Questions of Legitimacy
One particularly interesting part of the ruling addresses Secretary of State Mark Martin was “requesting that this Court find that the Satanic Temple does not have standing because the Satanic Temple is a “satirical parody” rather than a religion and because its adherents’ beliefs are not sincerely held”.
I want to address this point in particular because the court found that whether or not Satanism is a ‘real religion’ doesn’t actually affect whether or not TST or its members has standing in the case. However it did find that their claims “are not a sham or frivolous”. Which is to say, that it reaffirmed that Satanism is a recognized religion in several contexts. Further the court stated that TST’s brand of Satanism, despite its differences with the LaVeyan traditions of CoS, was not the same thing as the kind of trolling engaged in by (for a specific example in the document) Pastafarianism.
Again, from the ruling:
“[T]he record before the Court includes sworn affidavits from Ms. Robbins and Mr. Misicko that they are adherents to and practicing members of the Satanic Temple. The record includes information regarding the beliefs of adherents of the Satanic Temple, a description of a schism in Satanism after the death of the man attributed with its founding, Anton LaVey, allegations of the expenditure of funds by the Satanic Temple to create the Baphomet Monument, and attempts by the Satanic Temple to adhere to a legal process to have the Baphomet Monument placed on the State Capitol grounds. There is no evidence before the Court that the proposed intervenors’ actions are not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action.”
The court then declined “to conduct the inquiry requested by Mr. Martin at this stage of the proceedings”. The ruling also goes on to say that if the court were to have to make a decision regarding TST’s legitimacy, based on the information it has, that TST and its members “have satisfied their burden at this stage of the litigation to establish standing to bring claims under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”
All of that means that the court didn’t entirely ignore Secretary of State Martin’s argument that TST is (as many wrongly claim) ‘just a bunch of atheists just trolling Christians’. But it did say that based on what this court has seen, TST has demonstrated its legitimacy and isn’t just out to make a frivolous or spurious claim. Basically, the court implied that Arkansas is free to make that argument over the course of case at their own peril.
What Does This New Ruling Mean?
We may yet see Baphomet on the Arkansas Capitol grounds, for one thing. It will come down to whether or not the courts decide the 10 Commandments should come down or that Baphomet should go up. It also seems to suggest that Arkansas may be in a bit of trouble for changing the rules on TST mid-application no matter what the fate of the monuments are. So this will be an exciting case to watch going forward.
When TST held their Rally for Religious Liberty at the Arkansas capitol this summer, Senator Rapert was emphatic that “It will be a very cold day in hell before we are ever forced to put up a permanent monument on the state capitol grounds that’s as offensive as this …“. If that’s true, with this ruling hell just got a few degrees cooler and Rapert should start considering the wider ramifications of climate change. The ruling is by no means an indication of where the courts will finally fall on the continuing Saga of Rapert’s personal crusade to inject Christianity further into public discourse (a quest, I must reiterate, that only seems to serve the financial and aspirational goals of Rapert himself). But what it does do is say that when the courts discuss the fate of Arkansas’ capitol lawn TST will have a seat at the table and have their voice heard.
You can view a copy of the full 30-page(!!) ruling for yourself below.