Imagine walking up to a state capitol and encountering Satan, in the form of a seven-foot goat-headed figure with wings and horns. It could happen if New York Satanists gets their way.
Satan worshippers, a few atheists and the American Civil Liberties Union are in a fuss over a six-foot granite monument, inscribed with the Ten Commandments, placed on grounds of the Oklahoma capitol in 2012.
The ACLU has filed suit to remove the commandments and the New York-based Satanic Temple wants to answer the slab with a statue of the Devil.
American Atheists joined the party Monday, filing a lawsuit against the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission for erecting the Ten Commandments display.
The Oklahoma Legislature authorized the monument, which is privately funded, in 2009. The authorizing legislation, House Bill 1330, ordered compliance with U.S. Supreme Court precedent regarding Ten Commandments displays.
In announcing their lawsuit Monday, American Atheists characterized the display as a "Christian monument" that endorses "one specific religion."
It's an ignorant charge, given the Ten Commandments are found in the Hebrew Bible and predate Christ.
Islam, Judaism and Christianity all worship the same God. All accept teachings of the Old Testament. Muslims, Christians and Jews observe the Ten Commandments.
The base of the Oklahoma monument features the Star of David, twice, which is the symbol of Jewish identity.
So it's not possible that a code of morality, found in ancient scriptures and observed by western civilization's three major religions, establishes an endorsement of Christianity.
The Supreme Court allowed a nearly identical Ten Commandments display at the Texas Capitol, ruling in Van Orden v. Perry the monument did not violate the First Amendment's establishment clause. The 2005 decision determined the monument had historical value and was not purely religious.
It was a common-sense ruling, given the fact all states and federal government uphold three of the rules given to Moses on Mount Sinai. All states and the federal government prohibit murder, theft and bearing false witness - known in secular law as deception and fraud. Governments at all levels shut down non-essential services on Sabbath days of Saturday and Sunday.
Soviet dictators quashed religion for most of a century. They enforced secularism to promote tyranny, not freedom. Today, as Russia craves American-style liberty, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to see more religion.
"At the heart of all Russia's victories and achievements are patriotism, faith and strength of spirit," Putin said in 2013, asking the Orthodox Church to involve itself more in Russian family life, education and the armed forces.
Based on data from the Pew Research Center, almost 60 percent of Oklahomans self-identify as "religious." Among them, 99.47 percent belong to religions that embrace the Ten Commandments.
In allowing the Ten Commandments in Texas, the Supreme Court discussed the hazards of a government that shows "callous indifference to religious groups" by failing to respect the religious nature of the culture. It drew on Abington Township v. Schemp. The 1963 Supreme Court case forbids school-sponsored bible readings in public schools, simultaneously acknowledging the religious nature of the United States.
"Religion has been closely identified with our history and government," the court explained in Township v. Schempp. "The fact that the Founding Fathers believed devotedly that there was a God and that the unalienable rights of man were rooted in Him is clearly evidenced in their writings, from the Mayflower Compact to the Constitution itself. It can be truly said, therefore, that today, as in the beginning, our national life reflects a religious people who, in the words of Madison, are 'earnestly praying.'"
That's why a passive display of religious tradition, embraced by most Americans, is likely to withstand all challenges. Even from Satan.