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Lansing — The secularist group that’s putting up a “snaketivity” scene each day on the Capitol lawn says it’s trying to promote dialogue about beliefs and equality, not ruin Christmas.

The snaketivity sits a short distance from a traditional Nativity scene along a walkway in front of the Capitol, the two displays flanking the area where workers are building a platform on the Capitol steps for Gov. Rick Snyder’s second-term inauguration Jan 1.

On Monday, three volunteers were singing carols in front of the Nativity. Two demonstrators were holding up signs near the snaketivity, one of which said: “Only a fool says there is no God.”

The Detroit chapter of the Satanic Temple installed its display Sunday morning, two days after Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and others put up their Nativity figurines.

The snaketivity display features a snake offering a book called “Revolt of the Angels” as a gift and a slogan “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge.”

Jex Blackmore, spokeswoman for the organization, said the Satanic Temple put up its display “to have a dialogue” with the public, since another group was being granted permission to display the traditional Christmas scene of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.

“We think that is an example of a privilege that is granted on public property for a single or popular belief,” Blackmore said.

“Government shouldn’t be promoting a single religious view.”

Her group’s exhibit “is not about ruining Christmas and it’s not about trying to impose somebody’s beliefs,” she said. “It’s about equality and it’s about recognizing differences.”

Blackmore said her chapter of 25-50 active members and other followers, formed just a few months ago, also wanted the display because members objected to an effort by some lawmakers to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

House Speaker Jase Bolger said the proposal, which died in the Senate without a vote, would protect people from being forced by government to do something that violated their religious conscience. Opponents said it would be a license to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Blackmore told The Detroit News her chapter of a national group uses some Satanic rites but doesn’t worship Satan and, in fact, doesn’t believe in supernatural beings. It believes religion “should be disentangled from superstition,” she said.

Word that Blackmore’s group had gotten permission for a display from a state commission overseeing the Capitol grounds led Jones and his group to volunteer to care for a competing manger scene.

Bob Fleming, special counsel for the Thomas More Society and chairman of the Michigan Nativity Scene Committee, said the nativity scene “will demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas in a joyful and hopeful manner.”

gheinlein@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

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