On December 4, Satanists Display in Florida Capitol was published in InkandVoice in support of the Satanists display in the Florida capitol building and extolling the separation of church and state. It did not take long before a woman tried to destroy the display.
The Tallahassee Democrat reports that on Tuesday, December 23, Susan Hemeryck, 54, told the Capitol Police that she could not taking any more and that the display must come down because it was “not right.
Hemeryck’s mug shot (left) clearly shows her religious position; her shirt reads “Catholic Warrior.” This is another example of the religious conservative movement seeking to limit the freedom of both religion and expression through any means possible, including the attempts to only non-Christian or Jewish displays from the capitol grounds.
The Capitol Police arrested Hemeryck, charging her with criminal mischief and was released on her own recognizance.
The problem here is that any religious symbolism is displayed on government grounds is in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. However, the granting permission of all religious groups to make a winter display, an enforcement of open and free expression, even if forced to do so by a First Amendment rights group (in this case American United for Separation of Church and State), is commendable.
We each celebrate this season in our own way and some not at all. I join my family for Christmas dinner each year and we all exchange presents. Yet they know that I do not believe in a God or gods and that the celebration for me is an extension of the winter solstice. I do wish them a Merry Christmas, as is custom, and they wish me a good holiday – or Happy Chanukah depending on the day.
Because the cost of the display, a diorama of an angel falling into a pit of fire, is most likely less than $100, Hemeryck could not be charged with a greater crime than criminal mischief. The courts need to honor the First Amendment and levy the maximum fine, as it would if an atheist attempted to destroy a biblical based display, which to my knowledge has never happened.
This is also a clear example of working with the law versus outside of the law. As defenders of the First Amendment, American United wrote letters and asked that state to reconsider its position on an otherwise non-Christian display. The state had already displays for the local atheists, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and a six-foot tall stack of beer cans representing the factious holiday of Festivus, so why not a display from the Satanist community.
I am pleased that the Democrat reported that the display was repaired and remains in under Florida capitol rotunda.