BOCA RATON, FLA. (WSVN) - Residents of a South Florida community are used to incorporating several religious displays at their holiday parade, but a Satanic display is causing a lot of controversy.
A pentagram was placed next to the nativity scene on the day the City of Boca Raton is set to have a holiday parade, Wednesday.
The Boca Raton Sanborn Park has a nativity scene, a menorah and a Christmas tree every year. However, in light of inclusiveness, they have incorporated the pentagram, and the reaction has been mixed from the thousands of people who will attend the parade.
The 300-pound, 20-foot display with a carved out picture of Satan has since been vandalized with spray paint overnight.
“That shouldn’t be here,” said one Boca Raton resident.
The display is raising several questions for some. “Why would someone do that when we have so many people here who have so many different religions, and they’re being disrespectful,” said resident Aeryn Beining.
It was John Preston Smith, a teacher at Boca High School, who decided to put up this monument. The Pentagram was inscribed, “In Satan we trust, one nation under Antichrist.”
Smith said he plans to restore the display. However, he is not a satanist. He said he is working with the group Freedom From Religion Foundation and ideally would like to see all religious displays gone. “We will drag them into the new century, kicking and screaming the whole way,” he said. “We’re ready to make this a yearly tradition.”
Several people 7News spoke with believe Smith has the right to put up his own religious display if he wants to. “Freedom of speech, you’re allowed to do whatever you want,” said one man.
Another woman at the park admits including the Pentagram is unorthodox but believes it should be allowed in the parade. “It’s freedom of religion. It’s definitely strange, but,” she said and shrugged her shoulders.
“I believe everybody should be respected,” said one park-goer. “Is it kind of taboo? That remains to be seen.”
For Beining, the close placement of the Pentagram from the nativity scene is upsetting. “I think it’s a little rude because it’s a holiday parade from 5 to 7 today, and this is something a lot of family look forward to taking their kids to,” she said.
The Satanic display has a city permit to remain where it stands, so churches in the area are responding with a sign placed in between the Nativity scene and the Pentagram.
“We also felt it was spiritually harmful to the well-being of our community and our religious traditions,” said the Rev. Andrew Sherman, Boca Raton Interfaith Clery Association, “Jewish, Christian and Islamic support values of justice, mercy and peace.”
Police are investigating the vandalism of the pentagram.
Smith said the Freedom From Religion Foundation will also be putting out a reward to help find the vandal.
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