TALLAHASSEE — For all the attention The Satanic Temple sought trying to get into the state Capitol, the group tried to stealthily install its holiday display in the building’s rotunda Monday.
The diorama looks identical to one that was rejected last year by state officials for being “grossly offensive,” nearly causing a First Amendment lawsuit.
A doll meant to represent an angel is suspended by what appears to be fishing line, falling from clouds made of cotton into “flames,” some made of construction paper and others painted on the back of the display.
On either side are Bible passages, including one from the Gospel of Luke with Jesus talking to his disciples: “And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’”
The diorama appeared Monday without fanfare – no press conferences or protests. The Capitol rotunda was largely empty of visitors during most of the day.
The only dispute involved a brief dustup with John Porgal, a Tallahassee resident and Satanic Temple member, and a state official over the exact spot to place the display.
A Department of Management Services official told Porgal the display needed to be closer to a column, a couple of feet away and out of the central walkway.
After Porgal disagreed, the official departed without speaking to the gaggle of media attending the temple’s arrival.
“We wanted to make sure we got front and center just like the manger scene did,” Porgal said.
The Temple’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment on Monday. A spokesman for the department, which reviews and approves proposed displays, was out of the office Monday.
The diorama now sits close to a framed picture of a nativity scene sponsored by The International House of Prayer - Tallahassee.
That group believes in continuous “24/7” prayer to prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ, according to its website.
The Satanic Temple refers to itself as a religion but doesn’t subscribe to worshipping the devil.
Instead, the organization “advocates rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism,” its website says, admiring Satan as “symbolic of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority.”
The diorama and the framed nativity picture are scheduled to stand in the Capitol until Dec. 29.
Another display was set to come down Monday: A six-foot-tall pole made of empty Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans, meant to mark “Festivus,” the made-up holiday from a 1997 “Seinfeld” episode.
Festivus, celebrated on Dec. 23, showcases “an unadorned aluminum pole” instead of a Christmas tree. It includes a dinner, an “airing of grievances” and “feats of strength.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.