1. Opinion

Ruth: O Holy Nightmare

Published Dec. 5, 2014

Deck the halls with boughs of … Beelzebub?

Once again, it is time for the annual pie fight over religious displays in public spaces. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas if there wasn't a Nativity creche set up in the midst of that cradle of spirituality, the Capitol rotunda in Tallahassee.

Or think of it this way. For the better part of 11 months, there are probably more sins, lapses of ethics, payoffs and duplicitous backstabbing in the Capitol than in Game of Thrones. And then in December, Florida's feedbag of power is supposed to be transformed into an ecumenical haven honoring the Yuletide spirit.

Last year, the Department of Management Services allowed religious groups to set up faith-based displays in the Capitol rotunda, ridiculously thinking perhaps the space would be filled with baby Jesus figurines, wise men aplenty and the obligatory camel or two.

Instead, what was supposed to be a benign expression of the season quickly devolved into a Christmas version of the vigilante recruitment scene from Blazing Saddles. Before you could say O Little Town of Bethlehem, the Virgin Mary and Joseph were joined by an atheist group that installed a solstice banner in praise of the Bill of Rights.

Then came the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster with its revered symbol: a plate of blessed pasta, al dente optional. Let's face it. Nothing says joy to the world more than the Festivus Pole made of beer cans.

And once more the Tallahassee chapter of the Satanic Temple wants to put up its own display, featuring an image of an angel falling into a raging pit of fire.

Last year, state officials rejected the satanist display, arguing that it was "grossly offensive during the holiday season." But this year, the disciples of the Antichrist were approved by DMS to be a part of the rotunda exhibits.

Considering the weight of First Amendment precedents, it would seem the state of Florida was on flimsy footing denying the acolytes of Diablo a spot on the floor.

It is true that someone who holds devout Christian beliefs might be grossly offended by having to share a Nativity scene with the Prince of Darkness. That's tough tinsel. That's life. That's the U.S. Constitution.

It could be so much worse.

There are far more abhorrent potential rotunda displays that would make the satanists look like Maryknoll missionaries.

What would be more terrifying than a diorama erected by the Church of the Latter-Day Florida Public Service Commission depicting years of enslaved oppression by Duke Energy? Oh, the Dante's Inferno of it all, with images of helpless PSC commissioners beaten and flogged into approving billions of dollars in rate hikes at the whim of their Duke pharaohs.

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Visitors to the rotunda would be sent fleeing into the night at the sight of a display put up by the Florida Legislature, or as it is better known in theological circles the Church of Moneytology, where its compliant members must bow and scrape for campaign contributions from the Serpents of Lobbyists slithering between their legs.

The Tea People's Temple booth would feature its patron saint, Rick Scott, surrounded by followers incapable of blinking.

Of course, the display erected by the Cathedral of the Department of Environmental Protection would be something to see as it follows the strict canon law of Florida's developer cult to perform the miracle of turning water into cement.

In the spirit of political comity, the DMS could approve a Christmas display of Democrats roaming aimlessly across Florida for 666 years led by false prophet Charlie Crist without a savior in sight.

See? The satanists are probably beginning to look downright whimsical by now.

So can't we all just simply enjoy this special time of year with a few nice carols to grace the Capitol rotunda? A sample:

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Sign of the Beast."

"I Saw Mommy Kissing Lucifer."

"O Little Town of Gomorrah."

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Exorcism."

"Mephistopheles Is Coming to Town."

And finally, perhaps a few bars of "All I Want For Christmas Is Your Soul."


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