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Vandals attack pentagram was founded to protest Nativity scene

A satanic pentagram founded by atheist Preston Smith is damaged in Boca Raton’s Sanborn Square, Florida. on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016.

(AP)

BOCA RATON, Florida. – A 300-pound metal sculpture of a satanic pentagram, which was built as an atheist to protest against a public park Nativity scene, was severely damaged on Tuesday when it was pulled to the ground by vandals.

Atheist Preston Smith’s 10-foot-high sculpture was broken in Sanborn Square on the afternoon. Tire tracks led from the twisted metal to the street.

It appeared vandals had attached a chain from a vehicle to the sculpture and pulled it down, dragging it several feet. When local tv reporters prepared live broadcasts, two passers-by stopped and pushed the image back to its base for walking away.

The image is approximately 20 metres from a traditional Nativity scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, and is supported by a banner from an atheist group, reading “Keep Saturn in Saturnalias,” a reference to the belief that the early Christian church replaced Christmas for a Roman pagan holiday.

It is the latest Florida protest against the manger scenes on public property, the mirroring of earlier battles in the state capitol in Tallahassee.

Boca Raton police officer Sandra Boonenberg said the overnight strike was the third attack on Smith ‘ s image and the corresponding banner since he founded the screen earlier this month. Someone painted the red image black on Monday. Earlier someone damaged the banner. Detectives investigate.

Smith, a high school English teacher, said that as an atheist he does not believe in God nor Satan, but is using a symbol often associated with devil worship to his belief that religious displays have no place on public goods, since they are non-believers “feel like second-class citizens.”

“We are here to call out Christian hypocrisy and theistic bias in taxpayer-funded public arena while advocating for the separation of church and state,” he told The Associated Press. “Our ultimate goal is to return the government to its position neutral posture, so that when an atheist takes a walk through the park, we are not attacked by bronze age mythology.”

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He said that the vandalism “feels like Saudi Arabia, not in America.”

The US Supreme court has ruled that government can have religious displays on public property, but if they do, they cannot discriminate. Both the Nativity and the Pentagram were installed with city permits.

A group of local religious leaders — 14 ministers, two rabbis and the president of the city of the mosque — a banner next to Smith is the sculpture of criticism on the placement.

“The use of satanic symbols, insulting and harmful to our community, well-being,” the banner reads. “We find it a shameful and hypocritical way to advocate for the freedom of religion.”

The city issued a statement saying that while it respects Smith’s free speech rights, it offers no support for his message.

“In the past few years, the seasons, religious displays in Sanborn Square have recorded messages of projecting the themes of peace, forgiveness and harmony,” he said. “This screen appears to be more about shock value, attention and challenging our commitment to the constitutionally protected freedom of speech rather than promote goodwill, respect and tolerance during the holiday season.”

Passer-by Judy Hill, a retired information technology employee, decried the vandalism, but do not think that Smith should be built his statue next to the Nativity scene.

“I know that there is freedom of speech, but there is a time and a place for everything,” said Hill, a Methodist. “He only wanted to get publicity and he got it.”

In 2013 and 2014, atheists erected a protest in the Florida capitol after a Christian group placed a nativity scene. These displays have included a Festivus pole cans of beer, a performance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a mock god popular among non-believers, and one with an angel falling into the fire, with the message “happy Holidays from the Satanic Temple.” The latter was damaged by a vandal.

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