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Groups request access to space in Okla. After ten commandments are displayed.

A Hindu group and an organization that purports to believe in Satanism have asked for permission to display symbols alongside a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma statehouse.

The requests are part of an ongoing debate over religion at the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Legislators have already approved the display of a Ten Commandments monument, which they insist merely educates about the origin of the law.

After that display was erected, religious groups began petitioning the legislature for equal access to the space. Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, proposed adding a statute of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity.

Zed issued a press release noting that Hanuman, often referred to as the monkey king, is an important deity in Hinduism and that shrines to him are often found in northern India.

A group that says it worships Satan has also put forth a proposal. The New York-based Satanic Temple said it would like to erect a 7-foot-tall statue of a seated figure known as Baphomet, a goat-headed entity long affiliated with Satanism. The group's proposed statue shows Baphomet with a child standing on either side of him.

Critics have charged that the Satanic Temple, which is headed by a man named Lucien Greaves (formerly known as Doug Mesner) is a satirical group. But the organization was able to quickly raise more than $20,000 online to pay for the statue and released an artist's depiction of it. (Requests for space have also been submitted by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, an online entity that mocks fundamentalism, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

Some Oklahoma legislators are not pleased with the recent turn of events.

Senate Pro Tern Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) called the proposal from the Satanic Temple "a joke," and Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove) promised a legal battle to prevent the group from erecting its monument.

In January, state officials recommended placing a moratorium on monument proposals. An official with the Capitol Preservation Commission, which has jurisdiction over the facility and grounds, noted that the Ten Commandments monument is being challenged in state court and said it's best to wait until that matter is resolved. (That lawsuit, Prescott v. Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission, is being spearheaded by Bruce Prescott, a Southern Baptist minister and former member of Americans United's Board of Trustees.)

"At this time, I believe action by the [commission] on any of these requests would be premature given that the lawsuit has yet to be decided," Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission Chairman Trait Thompson said, according to the Associated Press.

But some observers noted the state officials should have realized what would happen after they approved the Ten Commandments display.

"The problem is that when the legislature allowed the Ten Commandments to be put up, they knew they were opening a Pandora's Box," Oklahoma City lawyer David Slane told Reuters. "If the state does not allow the other monuments, then it's in violation of the Equal Protection Clause."

Caption: Lord Hanuman: Coming to Oklahoma?

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Title Annotation:PEOPLE & EVENTS
Publication:Church & State
Geographic Code:1U7OK
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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