With new holiday display process, Satanists vow a return to Florida Capitol

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Satanists promise a return to the Florida Capitol, as the state maintains and streamlines its first-come, first–serve, mostly open-door holiday display policy.

Last year, the Satanic Temple threatened to sue after a planned display was declared “grossly offensive” by the state Department of Management Services. This year, the New York City-based temple will apply again, reports Jim Turner of the News Service of Florida.

“I would definitely like to see The Satanic Temple submit a holiday display again this year,” temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves told Turner in an email Wednesday.

“We’ll get to work early.”Many expected the state to institute new policies to limit displays after the uproar last year. Instead, the DMS is making the application process easier for organizations seeking to put up temporary displays in the Capitol complex. Among the changes are a new online application process.

Graves added that he is “completely mystified that no policy changes have been made.”

The Department of Management Services would not comment as to why they are keeping the display policy as is.

Spurred by the range of exhibits on display at the Capitol rotunda during the holidays, including a pole of empty beer cans to celebrate the fictional Festivus, the approval process came under review earlier this year.

Another display was a shredded pile of paper to resemble the satiric deity of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Crossing the line for state officials was the Satanic Temple’s proposal of a diorama depicting an angel falling into hell with the phrase “Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple.”

Media coverage of a nativity scene by the Florida Prayer Network set off a wave of competing displays from groups such as the Tallahassee Atheists and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The nativity had been installed next to a Hanukkah menorah and Christmas trees, which have been displayed for years on the first floor Capitol rotunda.

Florida Prayer Network President Pam Olsen applauded the state agency decision keep the space as a public forum.

“It’s the people’s building, any Capitol is where the people gather and make their voice heard and it should stay free,” Olsen told the News Service.

Temporary displays will be limited by height and location in the rotunda so they do not block permanent memorials like the Civil Rights and Veterans halls of fame. In addition, the state will allow them as long as there is space available, and there are rules against noise and obstructing official business.

On Wednesday, the DMS began running a seven-minute tutorial video about expectations in the updated online application process.

The new web-based application should be going live on Monday.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.