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State senators will ensure a nativity scene is erected near the state Capitol after learning the Detroit branch of a secularist group that includes Satanists has permission for a display on the Capitol's lawn before Christmas.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, made the announcement Tuesday after Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, criticized the Satanic Temple exhibit and quoted Jesus Christ as denouncing Satan as "a liar and the father of lies."

"This is an effort to mock the concept of religious freedom" and "an attempt to scorn Christianity," Hunter said.

Hunter's speech elicited a chorus of "amens" as Republicans in the GOP-dominated Senate went on record in support of the minority floor leader's comments.

The Satanic Temple display organizer Tuesday welcomed the nativity scene.

"In fact, our display works much better in dialogue with representations of other faiths," said Jex Blackmore, director of the Satanic Temple's Detroit chapter. "We believe that a diversity of beliefs should be represented so long as religious iconography is permitted on state property."

The group will display a "Snaketivity Scene" each day from Dec. 21-23, featuring a snake, a book symbolizing knowledge and a message that "the greatest gift is knowledge," Blackmore said. The group says it doesn't worship Satan and describes itself as a collective of Satanists, secularists and advocates for individual liberty.

"Just as the Nativity is a myth representing the birth of Christ, the snake is representative of the myth of the birth of human enlightenment and liberation," Blackmore said.

But she was bothered by the senators' criticism.

"If our Legislature finds it morally incomprehensible to respect the diversity of differences among Michigan citizens, then perhaps they are much better served as members of the clergy rather than representatives of the people."

The Satanic Temple of Detroit's display was approved by a state commission, while a Florida individual was seeking local help to exhibit a proposed nativity scene. Jones said fellow senators would make sure the nativity scene — no more than three by three feet — is erected and taken down daily in accord with Capitol rules.

gheinlein@detroitnews.com

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