OKLAHOMA CITY — In their zeal to advance their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including satanists who are seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the State House steps.
The Republican-controlled Legislature in the state known as the buckle of the Bible Belt authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality.
The Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit seeking its removal.
But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity. It notified the state's Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument and plans to submit one of several possible designs this month, said Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the temple.
''We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,'' Greaves wrote in a letter to state officials. ''Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.''
Greaves said one potential design involves a pentagram, a satanic symbol, while another is meant to be an interactive display for children. He said he expects the monument, if approved by Oklahoma officials, would cost about $20,000.
Mike Ritze, a state representative who spearheaded the push for the Ten Commandments monument and whose family helped pay the $10,000 for its construction, declined to comment on the Satanic Temple's effort, but Greaves credited Ritze, a Republican, for opening the door to the group's proposal.