Satanic Symbol Among Holiday Displays in Boca Raton Park Causing Controversy

As the city of Boca Raton plans to celebrate the holiday season, a display in one park is drawing praise from some First Amendment advocates – and protests from clergy members in the area.

The Satanic display has been placed inside Sanborn Square, located off Federal Highway. The display, which features a pentagram, is placed next to a nativity display in a park that features plenty of items for the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.

"We were concerned it would incite violence, but we're working with our faith-based community to have it bring our community together to say this is not what Boca is about," Mayor Susan Hayne said.

Already, the display and a sign next to it have been vandalized overnight, according to NBC affiliate WPTV.

Many are against it but said defacing it was a step too far.

"I think it's too bad someone felt they needed to come out and put out a satanic display but it's also wrong for other people to deface it," Jake Jackson said.

The city gave Preston Smith a permit for the display, which was provided from the Freedom from Religion Foundation. Smith says he did so to protect the First Amendment, including what he calls the "freedom to offend."

"It serves as a sacred memorial for the countless freethinking heretics, heroic heathens, and brave blasphemers brutally burned alive at the stake by righteous believers," Smith said in a statement.

An interfaith group of clergy members intended to block the display with a banner of their own Wednesday, hoping to block it from public view. They called the symbol "offensive and harmful to our community’s well-being" and a "hypocritical way" to advocate for religious freedom.

"We felt we needed as a community, the religious community, to say this isn't healthy for the well-being of our community and we want to be in conversation about that," said Deacon Andrew Sherman, with the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association.

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