Letters to Satan was a (mostly) weekly column by Lucien Greaves published in Detroit’s Metro Times and the Orlando Weekly from September 2014 till April 2016.
Table of contents
- The Satanic Temple claims not to believe in the Devil. Why do you call yourselves Satanists?
- How do you respond to the widespread accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse and Satanic occult crimes?
- Is Halloween a Satanic holiday?
- What is a Black Mass?
- The Satanic Temple is famous for demanding identical rights as Christian groups. Don’t you worry that, in doing so, you are no better than the proselytizing groups you decry?
- You describe The Satanic Temple as “atheistic Satanism”. Is there any place for occultism and magick?
- Don’t you worry that by associating specific causes -- such as women’s rights and secularism -- with Satanism, you’re doing more harm to those causes than good?
- Do you worry that recent comments from the Pope, affirming the existence of demons, and the Devil, along with his endorsement of exorcism, might give rise to new anti-Satanist fears and help ignite a new witch hunt?
- Are you upset that Orange County public schools closed its open forum for religious literature distribution in response to The Satanic Temple’s request to participate, or are you happy that Bibles will no longer be handed out in schools?
- Don't you think you'd recruit more sympathetic minds if you used a figurehead more popular than the one blamed for bringing evil into the world?
- Why does The Satanic Temple want to put its holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda? Christmas is a Christian holiday.
- Why is The Satanic Temple placing a holiday display at the Michigan State Capitol even though there will not be a Nativity scene on the Capitol grounds?
- Do you have a statement regarding the intentional destruction of your holiday display at the Florida Capitol Rotunda?
- How can you consider yourself a legitimate religion when Satanism only exists in opposition to Christianity?
- Do you believe that “Free Speech” protects hate speech and false statements?
- If we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, then where do our laws come from?
- This week the woman who attempted to destroy your holiday display entered a plea of ‘Not Guilty’. Do you have a comment?
- Satanism is inherently oppositional and will always attract the disaffected. Don’t you worry Satanism only fuels criminality and justifies immorality?
- ‘In God We Trust’ isn’t exclusive to a single religious view. Most religions center upon God worship. Why does The Satanic Temple object to ‘In God We Trust’ being displayed in public buildings?
- I read recently that The Satanic Temple is petitioning for an amendment to the proposed RFRA bill in MI that would require businesses to publicly post their discrimination policies. Won’t your campaign for “discrimination transparency” serve to make open discrimination more acceptable?
- Florida recently dropped all charges against a woman who vandalized your holiday display. Do you have any comment?
- How does The Satanic Temple presume to leverage its beliefs in bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty into an exemption from mandatory abortion waiting periods?
- The Satanic Temple Files Lawsuit Against Abortion Restrictions
- What will become of The Satanic Temple’s Baphomet monument now that Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled against the Capitol building’s 10 Commandments monument, mandating that it be taken down?
The Satanic Temple claims not to believe in the Devil. Why do you call yourselves Satanists?
This question is often the first to trouble and confuse the minds of the many who feel that Satan universally represents all that is horrific and anti-human, and that “religion” belongs solely to the superstitious.
Ours is not the Satan of medieval witch-hunting mythology, but the eternal rebel in opposition to tyranny – the literary Satan best exemplified by authors such as Milton, Blake, Shelley and Anatole France. The self-identified Satanist embraces their outsider status and is drawn to the forbidden, anomalous, and the hidden. We identify with the symbolism of “blasphemy” as an expression of liberation from superstition. We bow to no God, or gods, and we reject all arbitrary edicts and unjust authority.
We have no concern or sympathy for those who wish to preserve the myth of a Satanic cult conspiracy lurking underneath the surface of society, working dutifully toward destruction of the Common Good. If history has taught us anything regarding false allegations related to witchcraft and Satanism, it’s that the most horrific evil has always taken place when “good” people are moved by delusional fear to purge their community of a maligned “other.”
Contrary to popular perception, I argue that religion cannot be defined to require a belief in the supernatural. At its best, religion provides a narrative context, sense of purpose, symbolic structure, identity, values, and a body of practice. Religions enjoy certain privileges and exemptions that would be reprehensible – in a pluralistic society – to reserve for supernaturalists alone. While we reject superstition, our values are no less sincerely held. And while we view Satanism in metaphorical terms, our tenets and symbolism are far from arbitrary.
In short, we call ourselves Satanists because Satanists we are.
How do you respond to the widespread accusations of Satanic Ritual Abuse and Satanic occult crimes?
During the 1980s and into the 90s, the United States saw the emergence of an embarrassing witch hunt now referred to by sociologists as the “Satanic Panic”. Fueled by the sensationalist reports of talk show hosts — from Geraldo Rivera to Oprah Winfrey — the delusion of an international Satanic cult conspiracy temporarily enjoyed a disturbing degree of mainstream acceptance.
The reasons for this descent into panicked unreason have been the subject of academic scrutiny and a number of excellent books. For our purposes, the important fact is that no credible evidence for this homicidal occult mafia ever emerged, and a large number of Satanic crime claims were outright debunked. Some of the allegations could be attributed to religious paranoia or the opportunist exploits of con men. However, a good number of Satanic abuse reports came from people who had undergone a faddish brand of psychotherapy which sought to “recover” traumatic “memories” — thought to be lurking, repressed, in their subconscious minds — usually by way of hypnosis. It was these “recovered memories” that often revealed histories of Satanic abuse.
More often than not, “memories” recovered by way of hypnosis are but confabulatory imaginings that remarkably tend to match the expectations and assumptions of the therapist leading the session. If encouraged, these imaginings can metastasize into delusional, deeply-held, false memories. During to Satanic Panic, certain therapists — with heads full of then-popular paranoid anti-Satanist propaganda — unwittingly led their clients to contrive false recollections of Satanic abuse. In this way, the anecdotal “evidence” for a Satanic conspiracy exactly matches the quality of that for tales told by self-proclaimed victims of alien abduction.
To be sure,claims regarding Satanic Ritual Abuse, and claims of alien abduction are both narratives largely dependent upon “recovered memories” for support. There is no credible evidence in support of either.
Is Halloween a Satanic holiday?
Yes. Halloween is recognized and celebrated by Satanists as a holiday of their own. And, just as we can expect annual, staged outrage regarding “the War on Christmas”, we can similarly expect — to some greater or lesser degree — a hypocritical crusading War on Halloween. From the pious we still find fear-mongering folktales of poisoned candies and Ritual Abuse predators, though tolerance for this priggish hysteria has steadily fallen since the 1980s.
Nowadays, fortunately, the general tendency is to laugh at, or be disgusted by, the archaic anti-Halloween fanatics, and they do deserve our mockery and contempt, but we shouldn’t think them entirely defanged.
Just last year, Time Magazine reported upon a number of public schools nationwide attempting to ban candy and costumes on the most spurious concerns, some more blatantly prejudice than others. One school principal justified the ban in a note to parents stating, “Some holidays, like Halloween are viewed…as having religious overtones.” Naturally, no such concerns were expressed regarding the supposedly much-maligned Christmas holiday.
Halloween is a great Satanic holiday in that it allows people openly explore their darker, even perhaps antisocial, natures in a way that is fun and cathartic. It allows people to step outside of themselves for a night, putting a number of stifling social norms aside. Instead of viewing a Satanist endorsement of Halloween as evidence of the holiday’s insidious power to spiritually corrupt the young and vulnerable, it’s far more rational to understand Halloween as a window into understanding what it is that compels people to self-identify as Satanists to begin with. The typical self-identified Satanist gravitates toward the dark aesthetic common to Halloween-themed festivities — and like Halloween celebrants, they tend to do so in a way that causes no harm whatsoever to those around them and does not attach them to any criminal activity.
What is a Black Mass?
The Black Mass, as an idea, originated with hysterical Catholic propaganda against the afeared “other”. It was a story told of a horrific, ritualistic affront against all decent Christendom, the narrative of which was used as a justification for killing perceived enemies to society — heretics. Ironically, Roman Pagans accused early Christians of enacting secret nocturnal rituals in which infant sacrifice was said to occur. Christians later demonized Pagans, and made almost identical allegations regarding the “Witches Sabbath”. Medieval blood libel against the Jews told of rites during which a consecrated host would be defiled in one way or another. These elements came together in a conspiracy theory of imaginary Satanic crimes that eventually became a staple of Satanic mythology: the blasphemous Black Mass.
As sometimes happens with these things, some people found themselves drawn to the idea of this forbidden ritual, and there’s some evidence that certain parties worked to enact outrageous rituals inspired by this mythology. French writer Joris-Karl Huysmans, published a book titled La-Bas in the late 19th-century in which he described an eye-witness account of a Black Mass enactment that has served as a detailed blueprint for its actual practice.
Now, the Black Mass, when it is performed, is a repurposing of the mythology into a declaration of personal independence on the part of its participants. It’s an act of liberation from stifling and oppressive superstitious precepts that were likely instilled at a young age. It’s usually something people feel motivated to do somewhere in the introductory stages of Satanism, when they are just feeling empowered by the fact that they can engage in blasphemy — these forbidden symbolic acts — without consequence.
The ultimate irony occurs when Catholics object to the Black Mass as “hate speech” directed against them. The Black Mass originated from Catholic hate speech, now repurposed to express the affirmative values of Satanists.
The Satanic Temple is famous for demanding identical rights as Christian groups. Don’t you worry that, in doing so, you are no better than the proselytizing groups you decry?
Imagine, for a moment, that you wake up one morning to find that, at some point during the night, some scofflaw has vandalized the wall on the abandoned building across the street from your residence. Not eager to have a crude, spray-painted penis looking you in the face each morning, you opt to paint over it. Do you worry, now, that you are “no better” than the vandal who originally defaced the wall? You’re painting the wall as a reaction to the vandal having painted the wall. Are you any better?
Say you’re circulating a petition to save the whales. Are you any better than the guy who’s circulating a petition to reinstate racial segregation in schools? You want to write a book related to your political views? You may want to consider, then, that you’d be “no better” than Hitler.
What I hope these examples illustrate is that it’s ridiculous to ignore the context of any action. The Satanic Temple is famously fighting to have a Satanic monument installed next to a 10 Commandments monument in Oklahoma. How are we different from the theocrats who fought to install the 10 Commandments? For one, we would never seek to set the precedent for such a Church/State breach. For another, the content and context of our monument campaign is entirely different. It is not a matter of choosing between no religious representation in the public square or our monument. We would actually prefer there be no religious monuments on public property. Rather, it is a matter of whether only one religious voice is represented, or whether plurality is respected. Given these options, we prefer the latter.
You describe The Satanic Temple as “atheistic Satanism”. Is there any place for occultism and magick?
We hold firm to a certain set of values that conform to a cultural narrative that we use to define ourselves. As one of our tenets holds that, “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world”, and, “we should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs”, we don’t feel it is anybody’s place to dogmatically dictate metaphysical interpretations regarding the nature of the universe to our membership, much less the rest of the world. The Satanic Temple specifically fights for a secular environment in which all people who adhere to our basic values can express their beliefs as they will. If some of our membership do subscribe to ideas of ethereal forces, which we don’t feel we have anything to say about, so long as it doesn’t conflict with one’s ability to consider the best available scientific and empirical evidence regarding any given subject. Such beliefs, like all beliefs, should be approached with reasonable agnosticism, but one should not pretend that a failure to know anything with 100% certainty means also that equal probability can be assigned to every proposition. What that usually results in is some form of the “God of the gaps” argument — filling in admitted gaps in scientific knowledge with speculative, admittedly improbable, assertions of other-worldly powers. Some of us gravitate toward the anomalous — a rule’s obscure exceptions — forming broad metaphysical interpretations. So long as one’s thinking remains open to the possibility of correction, this can actually be an interesting intellectual exercise. It shouldn’t be entirely serious, but it shouldn’t be taken as a mere joke. I would prefer to refer to our Satanic occultism as Satanic ‘pataphysics, in the tradition of the French ‘pataphysicians of the 19th century.
Don’t you worry that by associating specific causes — such as women’s rights and secularism — with Satanism, you’re doing more harm to those causes than good?
There is a certain breed of sanctimonious ass who — after defining him or herself in relation to a specific social issue — acts as self-appointed arbiter of all that is representative of that issue. Whether it be women’s rights, gay rights, secularism, or any number of causes, they imagine themselves to have taken ownership of an entire movement. These self-righteous snobs feel it appropriate to try and dictate the ideal political affiliations, activities, even religious persuasions, of those who would embrace “their” cause.
This is as ignorant as it is counter-productive.
Often the argument comes in the form of condescending and coddling concern for what the opposition will think. Now the affrighted superstitious will think all atheists are Satanists, some affronted secularists decry. Likewise for gay rights and women’s rights. Implicit in this argument is the ridiculous notion that there is one uniform, “true” voice of the cause. Worse, the argument suggests that Satanists have no right to define themselves on their own terms. Offensively, we’re being asked to accept as unchangeable, or unchallengeable, persistent libels regarding Satanism. It’s suggested we should withdraw ourselves from issues that intersect undeniably with our values. Even worse still, the argument further suggests that The Satanic Temple’s membership who are gay activists, feminists, secularists, etc., should seek to define themselves in religious terms more acceptable to those who would ostracize them.
In short, The Satanic Temple will continue to advocate for issues in accordance with our convictions. Other people and organizations are free to undermine their progressive efforts by apologetically pursuing agendas that will not raise the ire of those who disagree with them. For our part, we have little concern that their spinelessness will be confused with our actions.
Do you worry that recent comments from the Pope, affirming the existence of demons, and the Devil, along with his endorsement of exorcism, might give rise to new anti-Satanist fears and help ignite a new witch hunt?
While most people continue to gush about Pope Francis’s unremarkable statements regarding income disparity, and his unqualified concessions to long-recognized scientific facts, fewer recognize the horrific embarrassment of the paranoid, superstitious demonology he actively espouses. Witch hunts in Africa have certainly been known to take place in various regional cultures’ own terms, but we see now that they have largely embraced a pious Christian context. Missionaries have done little, if anything, to solve the problem. One might reasonably wonder if, despite their efforts to provide medicine and food to deprived peoples, the missionaries even come close to offsetting the damage they do by cultivating superstitious delusion and combatting contraception in territories besieged by poverty and AIDS.
As for a modern witch-hunt within the United States, the Catholic Church is of little concern. The American Inquisition takes the form of tin-foil hat Torquemadas who attempt to give their demonological conspiracy theories a scientific, secular veneer. The Western witch-hunter is, for the most part, a self-appointed occult crime investigator, or “Ritual Abuse” expert. These witch-hunters furiously endorse the pseudoscientific practice of Recovered Memory Therapy: the notion that “repressed memories” of trauma may be drawn forth by way of hypnosis, or other techniques. In reality, such “therapeutic” techniques have given us the confabulatory folklores of alien abduction, Satanic cult conspiracy, and past-life regression. It’s little mystery that the hypnotic ramblings produced almost always match the suppositions of the therapist drawing forth the “memories”.
One can find the largest collection of modern Western witch-hunters among pseudoscientific professional mental health organizations like the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD). Beware: while many of these mental health monsters spread delusions of a Satanic conspiracy to their dedicated audiences, they are typically more savvy than to accuse their critics, outright, of demonic practices. Rather, when confronted, they ignore the particulars of their outrageous claims and assert that they are simply working to advocate for victims of child abuse. To be sure, if you are bold enough to express skepticism regarding their claims of Satanic abuse, they will accuse you of working to defend child abusers.
This is the deplorable tactic of today’s witch-hunters.
Are you upset that Orange County public schools closed its open forum for religious literature distribution in response to The Satanic Temple’s request to participate, or are you happy that Bibles will no longer be handed out in schools?
In a press release dated September 12, 2014, The Satanic Temple announced that it would seek to disseminate Satanic literature — in the form of an activity book — to students in the Orange County school district (FL), where the acting board had already allowed for the “passive distribution” of Evangelical materials. As a public institution, the schools are not allowed to engage in viewpoint discrimination, privileging one religious view to the exclusion of others. While The Satanic Temple feels that religious propaganda and proselytizing have no place in public schools, it is far better that multiple religions be represented in a so-called “open forum” than that a single viewpoint be allowed to dominate the discourse.
Last week, in light of national attention brought to the issue, the Orange County school board met to rethink their open forum policy. The board’s chairman, Bill Sublette, stated, “This really has, frankly, gotten out of hand. I think we’ve seen a group or groups take advantage of the open forum we’ve had.” Sublette also had the long-overdue epiphany that “Religious instruction really belongs in the home, not in the schools.” The board decided to cancel the forum originally scheduled for January, and indicated that they will soon vote to be rid of the open forum policy altogether.
And with this, it seems we’ve exposed that the open forum was never truly open at all, and the passive distribution policy was never intended for the “advantage of” non-Christian materials. We would certainly have been happy to follow-through with our participation in the open forum, but ultimately our goal was to avert a worst-case scenario: a forum in which only Evangelical materials are represented, providing the appearance of unique deference toward one religious view. Legally, the board had two options: go forward with the open forum, including our Satanic Activity Book, or shut the forum down entirely. To The Satanic Temple, it was a win-win situation.
Don’t you think you’d recruit more sympathetic minds if you used a figurehead more popular than the one blamed for bringing evil into the world?
Often, it happens that The Satanic Temple’s activities draw the attention of those who find our campaigns to embody their ideals of the highest moral virtues (in defense of personal sovereignty, plurality, women’s rights, gay rights, etc.). These same people, however, at times feel a dissonance in attributing such activities to Satanism, which is often associated with cruelty, evil, and immorality. As I’ve pointed out in many my writings, there is a culture of Satanism, and “Satanist” isn’t an arbitrary label that we feel could be exchanged for another. Satanism embraces the spirit of free inquiry and celebrates “blasphemy” as a declaration of independence from superstitions of old.
According to a common misperception, “Satan” is the adversary, and if traditional organized religion embodies the highest moral virtues, Satan must then stand in diametric opposition to decency itself. Of course we see that, in reality, traditional dogmas in the modern era often stand in stark opposition to reasoned moral positions. There is no reasonable, secular argument against marriage equality. Religious doctrines are often called upon to justify the corporal punishment of children and the general oppression of women. As our civilization progresses, it is largely in spite of, and at the expense of, traditional dogmas, rather than as a product of their guidance.
While slavery is justified and condoned with disturbing detail in the “Good Book”, many Bible-touting moralists today assert anti-slavery as a Christian virtue. What we see is that, regardless of doctrine, moral consensus is co-opted. As a consensus for increased individual rights and equality establishes itself, we can expect that generations from now traditional religious institutions will applaud themselves for every element of the Rights Revolution they once staunchly opposed.
The problem here is not only that religious institutions are regressive, resistant to change, and fail to acknowledge that reversals of policy are, in fact, a reversal at all — it’s that we enable all of these things when we tacitly concede that these religious institutions define moral values, and that opposing views are, by definition, immoral. It’s important that we not allow this type of revisionism to stand, not merely to rub traditional religionist’s noses in their sordid history, but so that we might cause people to question the moral fiats of religious authority in the present day. We do not concede that an opposing, or Satanic view, on current issues must be corrupt, criminal, or “evil”. Therefore, we fly the banner of Satanism with pride.
Why does The Satanic Temple want to put its holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda? Christmas is a Christian holiday.
Last week, The Satanic Temple finally received permission from Florida’s Department of Management Services (DMS) to place a holiday display in the Capitol Rotunda where a nativity scene and various other holiday displays have already been represented. Curiously, the exact same display was submitted last holiday season and was rejected as “grossly offensive” without further elaboration. This year, we returned represented by a team of lawyers from Americans United for the Separation of Church & State (AU), helping sway the DMS’s opinion, apparently, that our display isn’t so terribly offensive after all. AU, for their part, would surely rather that religious displays not be placed on public grounds at all, but once the separation between Church & State has been breached, it’s important to ensure that the government remain neutral, not preferencing one religious perspective over any other.
A predictable uproar has ensued, and is still gaining momentum. Paranoid conspiracist bloviator, Glenn Beck, sees in our display impending doom, warning in a broadcast that “destruction is coming our way”. Former Republican presidential primary candidate, Herman Cain, took to Facebook to display his constitutional ignorance, chastising Florida for not engaging in viewpoint discrimination (without attempting any legal justification). Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, in an infantile on-air tirade acted as a self-appointed arbiter of The Satanic Temple’s “true” motives, deciding — with no reference to any facts at all — that “this is purely an attempt to stick a finger in the eye of Christians in Florida.”
The fact is, nobody holds a monopoly on the holidays, nor does our holiday display make any reference to Christmas. One could digress into history to explore Christmas’s Pagan roots, or note with amusement that early American Puritans themselves banned the holiday as an affront to God, but that’s all beside the point. The fact is, our holiday well-wishing hardly constitutes any infringement or insult upon anybody else’s ability to celebrate whatever holiday they celebrate, however they see fit. We refuse to sit, sullen, silent, and excluded, when there could be celebration instead (Satanists are religiously pro-fun). As I stated in piece for Jezebel.com, “[…] we hope that our display, among the various others, will contribute to a general and growing understanding of plurality. If there is fun to be had, we’ll have it — and we wish the same for all, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof.”
Happy Holidays from The Satanic Temple!
Why is The Satanic Temple placing a holiday display at the Michigan State Capitol even though there will not be a Nativity scene on the Capitol grounds?
The Satanic Temple’s request (to place a holiday display at the Capitol) in Michigan came in response to reports that a Nativity Scene was already scheduled for public exhibition. Jex Blackmore (of TST’s executive ministry, and head of the Detroit chapter) stated, “Where there is obstinate refusal to keep religious iconography off of public spaces, the least we can do is ensure that the Government is remaining neutral, respecting a diversity of religious views, with preference for, and exclusion of, none.”
An amusing twist-in-the-plot occurred when it was then learned that the Nativity Scene would not be present at the Capitol after all. The Commission had imposed harsh restrictions on Capitol displays, requiring that every display be taken down at night and replaced the following morning. The Satanic Temple is able to meet those requirements, while the organization offering the Nativity are not. Hilariously, it appears that the strict impositions placed on the displays were devised specifically to keep TST out. In an early phone call to the Capitol, Blackmore (before she revealed her affiliation with TST) was told that the nightly take-down requirement was a response to “that group in Florida” — an obvious reference to TST’s successful battle to place a holiday display at the Florida Capitol Rotunda.
With the Nativity no longer at issue, some have suggested that our display should be withdrawn from exhibition as well. After all, is it not preferable that no religious displays litter the Capitol? While I would agree that religious iconography should enjoy no government deference, and our mission has always been in support of plurality, the problem of policy remains. The fact is, the State allows for such displays, and they will have to expect the unexpected if they intend to keep a policy that allows for religious displays on government land. If we’re contesting anything, it’s not the Nativity, but the policy that allows for a Nativity to be placed at the Capitol.
The fact that our actions will not always follow a linear and predictable tit-for-tat should perhaps serve to give pause to Michigan’s Senate as they consider the controversial Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (MRFRA). TST has thoughtfully conceived of many ways in which this contentious bill — feared to give legal protection to religious bigotry — can benefit our own affirmative values in ways Michigan lawmakers surely have not foreseen. The Senate can consider our holiday display a reminder of diverse, protected values, and they can reject the bill for the legal disaster it will bring… in which case we will assume victory. Or, they can approve the bill, and we will work to take full advantage of it… in which case, we’ll also assume victory.
Do you have a statement regarding the intentional destruction of your holiday display at the Florida Capitol Rotunda?
Earlier today, I received a phone call from a friend and member of The Satanic Temple in Tallahassee who informed me that he had only just been informed that our holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda had intentionally been destroyed. Reports, currently, are sparse, but I’m told that the culprit is in custody, and witnesses are in no doubt that she entered the Rotunda with the sole purpose of causing destruction.
Approval of our holiday display — a diorama depicting a fallen angel with a banner overhead bearing the message, ‘Happy Holidays From The Satanic Temple’ — was met with unease, controversy, and anger among certain pundits and commentators. However, The Satanic Temple was clear from the start that our display was not designed to insult. In an early published statement, I am quoted saying, “Nobody holds a monopoly upon the season’s celebratory spirit, and we hope that our display, among the various others, will contribute to a general and growing understanding of plurality. If there is fun to be had, we’ll have it — and we wish the same for all, regardless of religious affiliation, or lack thereof.” The message — if there needs to be one beyond ‘Happy Holidays’ — is one of tolerance for religious diversity. It is religious freedom and free expression in action.
Despite our best efforts to engage in dialogue and make our position clearly known, professionally panicked panderers to mob hysteria thoughtlessly, and publicly, speculated upon our “real” intentions. On the floor of the state Senate in MI, Sen. Tupac Hunter declared, “This is an effort to mock the concept of religious freedom” and “an attempt to scorn Christianity,” never making clear how he reconciles his own “concept of religious freedom” with his apparent zeal to exclude non-Christian religions from the public square. In Tallahassee, “Pastor of Bible Based Church”, Darrick D. McGhee took to Fox News Network’s Fox & Friends, where he shamelessly and irresponsibly took it upon himself to speak for The Satanic Temple’s motives: “It [the holiday display] is definitely a ploy and a scheme and a mockery of those of us who are believers of Christ Jesus.”
Led by such inaccurate commentary, it comes as no surprise that a disturbed individual may take to destructive action while imagining herself to hold the unassailable high-ground. There is an irony — easily seen — in the behavioral defects of those who declare their moral supremacy contrasted against those who accept the legitimacy of multiple viewpoints. The destructive tendencies, the truly immoral actions, seem to arise more readily with those who claim to believe in the exceptionalism of their creed, the infallibility of their faith. Sanctioned exceptionalism breeds arrogance, contempt, and corruption. Zealots, believing they represent a majority view, perceive themselves the beneficiaries of popular support. In fact, it isn’t so. Whatever the reasoning turns out to be behind the assault on our display, it is inappropriate to view it in the facile terms of Christianity vs. Satanism. The assault on our display, if thought to be done in favor of a Christian viewpoint, is more appropriately viewed as an assault upon religious pluralism and a rejection of Government viewpoint neutrality. It is a rejection of American constitutional values held dear by a large number of self-identified Christians — many of whom express support for The Satanic Temple’s right to religious freedom. It is time that the fundamentalists and religious radicals realize that they are the belligerent few, and we, who uphold the virtue pluralism, whatever our religious affiliations (or lack thereof), will not be silenced.
How can you consider yourself a legitimate religion when Satanism only exists in opposition to Christianity?
Invariably, in the course of our campaigns, we are confronted with the ignorant assumptions, dissembling criticisms, and confused objections of those who would create false arguments in favor of government-recognized Christian exceptionalism. Operating under a cheap and unconvincing claim of constitutional support, puzzled lawmakers with theocratic aspirations struggle to reconcile their proclaimed allegiance to government viewpoint neutrality with their panicked impulse to exclude Satanists from any and all public privileges. What this usually amounts to is a rejection of the notion that Satanism can be considered a religion at all. Conveniently defining “religion” from the model of their own practice, these self-appointed defenders of Christian America scoff aside the very notion of an atheistic religion (thus also casting out Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, and other examples, as somehow being non-religions).
During the uproar related to The Satanic Temple’s public holiday displays, it wasn’t uncommon to read ignorant and irresponsible text from outraged hack reporters stating “The Satanic Temple believes in neither God nor the Devil, but exists merely to mock Christianity”. No citation was — nor could be — provided for this brash accusation that ran contrary to everything we, The Satanic Temple, ourselves had to say about our own motives and mission.
Apparently, for some tender-headed bloviators, it’s altogether too much to comprehend that archetypal tales can hold meaning and impart values even if not taken as literal histories. Ironically — given that early Christianity could easily be seen as little more than Jewish heresy, dependent upon, and defined by, the older religion — self-identified Christians today fail to recognize ever-present forces of cultural syncretism.
The fact is (and the facts have been publicly available in our materials all along), The Satanic Temple (TST) forwards its own affirmative values, and doesn’t merely act in rejection of, or in opposition to, that which Christians claim as their own. The claim that TST merely exists to “mock Christians” is a facile attempt at justifying viewpoint discrimination, a cheap attempt at intellectualizing sanctioned religious preference. In the case of the holiday displays, it was tedious and aggravating to read the willfully ignorant write of our “true” motives outside of what we ourselves had stated. If one is to take the liberty of deciding, by fiat, that our displays were really just an attempt to mock Christians, we’d be no less justified declaring the Nativity scenes placed on public land as nothing more than open and calculated mockeries against secular law and non-religious holiday observers. After all, what’s so difficult about keeping such displays to ones home and/or Church?
Do you believe that “Free Speech” protects hate speech and false statements?
Free Speech allows for the inquiry and critical scrutiny by which falsehoods are openly exposed. Free Speech does not, and should not, protect willful slander and/or defamation. The American Bar Association defines “hate speech” as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.” We should be careful to never allow a ruling body to limit even “hate speech” but for the most compelling of reasons — such as that the speech in question is likely to directly incite immediate violence against the party toward whom such speech is directed.
Freed Speech embodies the freedom to commit “heresy”, and the freedom to offend. Freedom of Speech should not be confused with freedom from criticism, critical inquiry, or mockery. To the contrary, Freedom of Speech protects all of these things, and to expose bad ideas through reasoned ridicule is to serve a legitimate function in the marketplace of ideas.
We believe in transparency. Free Speech means very little in an uninformed dialogue, nor is each opinion of equal value. Opinions based most closely on evidence-based conclusions hold greatest weight. Governments that conceal their activities for self-serving purposes, outside of reasonable, narrowly defined, National Security concerns, can’t be said to operate a free society. Organizations which maintain Secret doctrines almost certainly do so in recognition that their teachings are too ludicrous to withstand the critical scrutiny of unindoctrinated believers. Freedom of Speech is only meaningful in conjunction with freedom of information, and both are essential to maintaining an anti-autocratic governing structure. Organizational transparency can and should respect individual privacy. I believe in strengthening mechanisms of anonymity in communication and I support Net Neutrality (believing that many others in TST do as well).
We believe in the primacy of scientific knowledge. Just as Justice is lauded for being “blind” — applying equally to all individuals regardless of race, creed, or religion — Education should be equally blind to all three, persistently unconcerned as to whether empirical facts may insult those committed to aged and unworthy mythologies. While it is appropriate to appreciate that there is much that we do not not know, and much that we may be proven wrong on, it is not appropriate to treat speculative metaphysical answers that presume to fill those gaps as having equal or greater value to empirical fact. Nor should the possibility of error in any assessment of probability be used to leverage a relativism that allows the grossly improbable an equal status in questions of fact.
If we are not a Judeo-Christian nation, then where do our laws come from?
There is a clear lack of intellectual merit in the question that might ordinarily render it unworthy of response… however, the inquiry now carries the weight of theatrical populist outrage — falling, as it did, from the quivering lips of popular apocalyptic pundit Glenn Beck, who presented it last week in the context of a tirade against The Satanic Temple (TST). As Beck is no common fool, but rather a prominent fool with a significant national audience, it seems appropriate to address his concerns as indicative of the simplistic mindset of his wider fandom.
Beck found himself hysterically disturbed when TST was approved to place a holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda last month, prophesizing imminent destruction as a result. Failing to reconcile his anti-constitutional stance against free expression and religious liberty with his pretenses to patriotic constitutional fidelity, Beck openly admonished Florida for not acting as arbiters of proper religious practice. (Later, Beck went so far as to praise a woman for her petty, criminal vandalization of the display.) Last week, when Beck learned of TST’s Satanic Activity Book — designed to counterbalance the dissemination of Evangelical materials in public schools — he took to the air to have a serious heart-to-heart with his public. Impressing us with his statistical knowledge, Beck conceded that upward of around 10% of the nation are nonbelievers. According to him, however, the remaining 99.993% are indeed Judeo-Christian, and therefore “we” are a Judeo-Christian nation. Then he asked: if we are not, in fact, a Judeo-Christian nation, where do our laws come from?
Simple-minded as it may be, there is no simple answer for such an ill-informed question. The question itself begs many questions of its own. Why would the United States necessarily be a Judeo-Christian nation in order to have established laws? Beck seems to imagine that American law itself is based upon the 10 Commandments, citing prohibitions against lying, cheating (though there is no commandment against cheating) and stealing as foundational values that the 10 Commandments have provided us. But who could believe that such values are unique to Judeo-Christian culture? What of the pre-Christian and tribal cultures (unstained by missionary influence) that have respected this universal morality? And, if the United States were truly based upon the 10 Commandments, why does our very Constitution contradict the first four (which explicitly place prohibitions upon religious liberty and Free Speech)? And why are only three (killing, stealing, and bearing false witness) actually illegal in U.S. Law?
Beck cites the fact that there is an image of Moses within the Supreme Court itself as evidence that our laws are based upon his archaic, unconstitutional tablets. What Beck doesn’t mention (and likely doesn’t know) is that many historical “lawgivers” are equally represented in the Supreme Court’s interior decor, including Solomon, Hammurabi, and Muhammad, to name just a few. (Incidentally, depictions of Joseph Smith, Prophet of Mormonism, Glenn Beck’s own religion, are nowhere to be found.)
Above the steps to the Supreme Court, one can see the engraved phrase, “Equal Justice Under Law.” It is this value, this Constitutional virtue, that The Satanic Temple seeks to uphold with its political actions. And, despite whatever dissembling revisionism or ludicrous fabrications Glenn Beck tries to adorn with his empty, false patriotic rhetoric, he stands in complete opposition to our most basic Constitutional values. Our secular laws were written by people of reason. Claiming they came from “God” violates their letter and their spirit, as well as the intelligence of the entire discourse.
This week the woman who attempted to destroy your holiday display entered a plea of ‘Not Guilty’. Do you have a comment?
This past holiday season, as many readers are already aware, The Satanic Temple (TST) won the right (denied to us the year previous) to place a holiday display in the Florida Capitol Rotunda, where the state had allowed a Nativity scene, as well as other religious and non-religious holiday exhibits. Inclusion of the Satanic display proved controversial and, with no reference to TST’s own commentary, and with no apparent understanding of our beliefs and goals, offended pundits — from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson to voice-of-the-proudly-ignorant-paranoiac, Glenn Beck — took it upon themselves to contextualize our display as an assault upon “American Values.”
Apparently energized by the irresponsible commentary, and with a head full of superstitious zeal, 54-year old Susan Hemeryck was apprehended by police in the Rotunda when she began tearing down the display, later stating, “I was there at the right time and the right moment and I needed to take a stand against Satan.”
To be sure, security footage clearly shows Hemeryck herself assaulting our display, and her own commentary affirms that she recognizes her act of vandalism. Nonetheless, Hemeryck entered a plea of ‘not guilty’ this week, January 29. According to WCTV Eyewitness News, Hemeryck’s attorney, Mike Bauer, stated, “We are not sure there was a crime,” adding, “I think this case represents the state basically putting an attack on Christians. That would be her viewpoint.”
Think, for a moment, about how staggeringly ludicrous Bauer’s argument is. He seems to suggest that whether or not a crime has been committed is dependent upon whether or not the perpetrator can cite any reasoning for his or her actions. By this logic, the Klansman lynching an immigrant or African-American may not be committing a crime, as he may feel that his own culture is under assault by encroaching outsiders. The rapist is incited by provocative clothing, and likewise exonerated. I can punch anyone in the mouth who utters an offensive comment, whether or not the comment was directed towards me, and regardless of whether the speaker had any intent of offending anybody at all.
Hemeryck’s ridiculous plea has already elicited a good deal of head-shaking and disparaging commentary. Unfortunately, however, it seems most of the disgust is directed solely toward Hemeryck herself. In an ideal world, I personally feel that attorneys like Mike Bauer should suffer severe sanctions from the Bar Association for presenting such deranged and asinine arguments to the court at all. An attorney, wasting the time of the Court by presenting an argument that defies basic reasoning, much less legal justification, should be seen as displaying a breach of professional conduct. If Mike Bauer doesn’t know what a crime is, perhaps he doesn’t belong in the legal profession.
Satanism is inherently oppositional and will always attract the disaffected. Don’t you worry Satanism only fuels criminality and justifies immorality?
No. If one thing should be painfully obvious by now, in regards to morality, it’s that ostentatious declarations of fealty to mainstream religious codes don’t in any way ensure actual moral behavior. Nor, in reality, is there anything more than a disappearingly small number of recorded crimes somewhat credibly linked to Satanism (despite delusional conspiracy theories that claim contrary, and despite the outsized attention any such individual cases may receive). In fact, it appears that the large majority of us who openly reject mainstream religious codes don’t do so because we feel they inhibit us from committing immoral and criminal acts, but because we view the religious institutions and their edicts as themselves morally deficient and oppressive.
Clearly, it takes a morally deficient person to insist, to begin with, that but for the threat of God’s punishment we should all be raping and murdering one another with mindless abandon — yet we often hear this very argument from theists… apparently oblivious to what this possibly reveals about their own suppressed inclinations.
We espouse secular values, pledging allegiance to no “God” or gods. A recent Los Angeles Times article* reported on a study that looked at children raised in secular households noting that, “Far from being dysfunctional, nihilistic and rudderless without the security and rectitude of religion, secular households provide a sound and solid foundation for children.” Further, the article states:
Studies have found that secular teenagers are far less likely to care what the “cool kids” think, or express a need to fit in with them, than their religious peers. When these teens mature into “godless” adults, they exhibit less racism than their religious counterparts, according to a 2010 Duke University study. Many psychological studies show that secular grownups tend to be less vengeful, less nationalistic, less militaristic, less authoritarian and more tolerant, on average, than religious adults.
As for Satanism’s open rejection of comfortable cultural norms and divine decrees acting as a gateway to criminal and/or immoral behavior, indications are that the opposite may in fact be true. A growing body of studies related to “Moral Self-Licensing” provides evidence indicating that those who are assured of their moral superiority and incorruptibility have an increased tendency to act in an outwardly immoral manner. They are blind to their misdeeds and feel a sense of license to act like pricks. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the threats of violence and/or destruction, originating from righteous zealots, that we (The Satanic Temple) receive for some our peaceful campaigns. I feel it self-evident that unthinking conventional reverence and self-righteousness are gateways to immoral behavior in ways that Satanism couldn’t even begin to approach.
* Zuckerman, Phil. How Secular Values Stack Up. Los Angeles Times. 14 Jan 2015: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0115-zuckerman-secular-parenting-20150115-story.html#page=1
‘In God We Trust’ isn’t exclusive to a single religious view. Most religions center upon God worship. Why does The Satanic Temple object to ‘In God We Trust’ being displayed in public buildings?
This past month, Clark County, Washington, stirred controversy when, despite significant resistance, officials voted to allow for a plaque engraved with “In God We Trust” to be displayed prominently in the council’s chambers. This move was apparently prompted by the urgings of an organization known as “In God We Trust, a Committee of National Grassroots Advocacy, Inc.” (IGWT), based out of Washington, DC. IGWT is zealously engaged in a national campaign to urge malleable and credulous public officials to allow divisive proselytization on public grounds to appease conspiracist fears of a non-existent plot against a “Christian Nation” that never was.
Councilor Tom Mielke proved both malleable and credulous enough to vociferously advocate for the IGWT plaque in Clark County, hopefully calling into general inquiry his very competence as a public official. To be sure, the growing prevalence of public officials doggedly dedicated to pandering to their own tribal affiliations and superstitions at the expense of taxpayer dollars — creating animosity in their mixed communities — is a national outrage.
The idea that “In God We Trust” isn’t meant to convey an exclusive religious message is insulting to the intellect. Surely, Mielke and the crusading IGWT zealots wouldn’t be eager to display in “In Allah We Trust”, though they might disingenuously argue that Allah is but another name for the same heavenly tyrant. Also, it shows an incomprehensible amount of ignorance to completely disregard the presence of non-believers, polytheists, and others who can’t possibly imagine the IGWT plaque to represent their religious opinions in any way.
Fortunately, the Seattle chapter of The Satanic Temple, headed by one Lilith Starr, took note of the general discontent Mielke’s disgraceful idiocy has engendered, and is offering an alternative, or complementary, plaque that better reflects our American secular constitutional values of plurality and legal equality. The proposed plaque displays a border of symbols representing a diversity of religious views, centered with the phrase “E Pluribus Unum”, followed by its translation, “from the many, one”.
If the IGWT plaque is truly believed, by those who endorse it, to reflect a broad range of religious opinions, surely they won’t object to more appropriate display of inclusion. We shall see.
I read recently that The Satanic Temple is petitioning for an amendment to the proposed RFRA bill in MI that would require businesses to publicly post their discrimination policies. Won’t your campaign for “discrimination transparency” serve to make open discrimination more acceptable?
The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) bill, ostensibly designed to “limit laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion”, is often feared to merely give affrighted superstitious bumpkins free license to contravene basic Federal Civil Rights — allowing for open discrimination — in the name of religious freedom. Lest one mistakenly speculate that the bill’s sponsoring lawmakers imagined anything of a less disgusting, socially beneficial nature, the bill’s proponent, Jase Bolger, is quite clear that discrimination is indeed paramount here. Introducing the bill as a necessary adjunct to a bill meant to protect LGBT rights, Bolger imagined RFRA would help preserve the virtue of pious bakers who might suffer irreparable spiritual harm should they be made to produce a cake for a couple of godforsaken homos.
A ridiculous concern for Bible-based bakers somehow resonated with the limited imaginations of low-powered minds, and soon, sen. Rick Jones was imagining scenarios in which — only by the blessed power of RFRA — these Christly culinarians could avoid having to bake a cake for members of The Satanic Temple.
Rousing our Detroit chapter into action, Jex Blackmore, of our executive ministry, dutifully started a petition for an amendment to the proposed RFRA bill calling for “discimination transparency.” According to the petition “Patrons do not deserve to endure the distress, humiliation and inconvenience associated with being refused service by a public business in their communities,” and thus the burden should be placed upon businesses that would exercise the right to discriminate to conspicuously post their biases. In a press release, I replied to the concern that such open displays of discrimination would foster a Jim Crow era environment stating, “I’ll be happy if people generally recognize that parallel. The shame of this encroaching regression of Civil Rights belongs with the bigoted simple minds who practice discrimination in a notion of religious liberty, not on those of us who ask it to be recognized for what it is.”
In short, I fear transparency far less than I fear an environment in which discriminatory practices are concealed, forgotten, and complacently ignored by the uneffected. The shame of such idiocy, mindlessly brought to issue by regressive, gullible and unqualified politicians should stare us in the face openly. I want to know which businesses discriminate, and who they discriminate against, so that I can take my business elsewhere.
If you feel the same, please sign and share the petition here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/demand-inclusion-of-discrimi-1?source=c.em&r_by=12676266
Jex Blackmore has written an in-depth essay regarding the issue here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/17/1371439/-Senator-Jones-Religious-Liberty-also-applies-to-Satanists#
Florida recently dropped all charges against a woman who vandalized your holiday display. Do you have any comment?
This past holiday season, Susan Hemeryck — dressed in a t-shirt printed with the words “Catholic Warrior” — was arrested in the Florida Capitol Rotunda as she attempted to dismantle a holiday display placed there by The Satanic Temple. In an act of petty vandalism, which she fully confessed to, Hemeryck told the Associated Press, “I should have just done a better job and finished it off for good.” Completely ignorant of the criminality in her behavior, Hemeryck released a statement that claimed, in part, “I was not afraid of going to trial […] I wanted the jury to know that I did not act criminally as wrongly portrayed, but a devout Catholic following the Church’s teaching for non-violent and peaceful opposition of evil.”
Remarkably, prosecutors in Florida vindicated this complete disregard for law last week when they decided, due to “lack of evidence”, to drop all charges. Clearly, Hemeryck did attempt to destroy the display, but that apparently does not matter. Prosecutors were not convinced the display had been, in fact, sufficiently damaged. “The defendant [was] simply carrying the display,” court records say (according to the Tallahassee Democrat). “No damages are apparent—it is simply disassembled.”
Think, for a moment, what a remarkable precedent this sets, if one is to make the unlikely assumption that Florida is willing to treat all offenders equally. It translates into a carte blanche to rearrange the interior of the Capitol at-will, so long as minimal-to-zero physical damage is discernable. One might reasonably expect no consequences at all for moving potted plants into open doorways, re-hanging paintings upside, overturning trash bins, or even attempting to walk off of the premises with items belonging to somebody else (as Hemeryck clearly did).
I reached out to Greg Lipper of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State to ask his opinion of the situation. Via email, he replied: “The district attorney’s explanation doesn’t make sense: the display was damaged and the vandal admitted that she attacked the display because she disliked its message. If the tables were turned – if a self-proclaimed “Satanic Warrior” had vandalized a Nativity Scene – it is impossible to imagine that she would have gotten away with it. In a diverse society built on the rule of law, the same rules are supposed to apply to everyone. That didn’t happen here.”
Indeed, it did not. And, unfortunately, “prosecutorial discretion” will likely continue to allow the law to be applied unevenly.
Arkansas recently introduced a bill to place a 10 Commandments monument on their Capitol grounds. Does The Satanic Temple have plans to petition for their own monument in reply?
Arkansas is a state that has risen solidly into the upper rankings for violent crimes (11th of 50), while in the course of the past 2 years alone has plummeted from 5th to 36th in its education ranking. Local residents of any mental clarity surely can’t rest any easier seeing that politicians like senator Jason Rapert have been working, with singular focus, on penning and passing a fallacious and flagrantly fabricated bill meant to allow for the erection of a 10 Commandments monument at the state’s Capitol. Rapert, who seems entirely too unintelligent to experience the bafflement befitting his miseducation, instead presses forward with oblivious certainty that the archaic Decalogue formed the basis of the American Constitution. According to Rapert’s bill — which appears heavily plagiarized from the earlier Oklahoman bill (which itself may have been lifted from elsewhere) “God has ordained civil government and has delegated limited authority to civil government, that God has limited the authority of civil government, and that God has endowed people with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In fact, the 10 Commandments say nothing about any of these things. Much of the 10 Commands run entirely contrary to the Constitution — such as the prohibition on free speech (Thou Shalt Not Take Thy Lord’s Name in Vain) and prohibitions upon free exercise (no other gods, no “graven images”, mandatory recognition of the Sabbath) — in fact, there is nothing unique to the 10 Commandments that can also be found anywhere in the US or Arkansas state Constitutions. Prohibitions against murder and theft have existed in legal codes universally, and certainly preceded the 10 Commandments. Further, such prohibitions belong to Common Law, not Constitutional Law.
It’s little wonder that Sunday School Rapert — who regularly posts biblical passages to his Twitter feed — chooses the Decalogue over earlier legal codes such as the Hammurabi or the Code of Urukagina. Nonetheless, Rapert assures that the placement of a 10 Commandments monument “shall not be construed to mean that the State of Arkansas favors any particular religion or denomination over others.”
With such a broad view apparently being taken regarding influences upon early American legal codification, we feel our argument for a Satanic Baphomet monument — placed alongside the 10 Commandments — is as strong, or stronger, than the arguments for the Decalogue itself. As I previously stated while making the same case for placement in Oklahoma (the fight for which continues still), it was, partly, our witch-hunts that helped us, as a civilization, to realize our need for a rational, secular legal system. “Standards such as the accuser’s burden of proof, the presumption of innocence, a respect for material evidence, are all a result of our finding ways to subdue brute mob intolerance. Today, we are rightly offended by anti-blasphemy laws and divine fiats.”
“Our monument will stand in honor of those unjustly accused — the slandered minority, the maligned outgroups — so that we might pay respect to their memory and celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law.”
After all, while neither the US nor Arkansas Constitutions make any reference to the 10 Commandments, the Arkansas Constitution states,”no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship, above any other.”
Our monument for Oklahoma is completed and awaiting placement. When the Associated Press asked me about Arkansas, I stated, “We have the mold standing by waiting for just this very situation.”
Arkansas can expect us, and I’m fully willing to help educate the witless Mr. Rapert in a forum of debate, should he care to correct his spurious knowledge of Constitutional Law and public duty. The people of Arkansas deserve better than a representative so lacking in the most elementary understanding of his office and its intended limits.
How does The Satanic Temple presume to leverage its beliefs in bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty into an exemption from mandatory abortion waiting periods?
This past Summer, following the Supreme Court’s controversial Hobby Lobby ruling, The Satanic Temple (TST) drew up a document of religious exemption to be used against superfluous anti-abortion legislation. The exemption targeted “informed consent” laws requiring that women seeking abortions should be subjected to compulsory state-mandated “informational” materials that are often scientifically unsound. In fact, these materials appear as brazen attempts to dissuade women from abortion and create guilt in those seeking the procedure. Among our fundamental tenets, TST holds that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,” and, “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.” The logic of our deeply-held beliefs is such that bullshit claims contained in “informed consent” propaganda (such as the notion that abortions contribute to breast cancer and/or lead to suicide) are an affront to our religious values.
The Hobby Lobby ruling, affirming that the corporation’s “deeply held beliefs” allowed them to declare certain contraceptives as abortifacients when in fact they were not, set a precedent whereby TST could firmly declare a protected belief in the illegitimacy of anti-abortion state-mandated materials.
Recently, a member of The Satanic Temple informed us that she soon intends to present our exemption letter as she seeks an abortion in the state of Missouri. However, in Missouri, women seeking abortions are faced with a problem far more dire than that of insulting and inaccurate state propaganda: they are also required a 3-day (72 hour) waiting period for the procedure. With only one clinic in the state, those traveling a substantial distance often are forced to take significant time away from work while paying for overnight lodging. In response, we are providing an exemption from the waiting period, similar to the exemption from Informed Consent materials.
Now the question is asked, ‘how are deeply-held beliefs in scientific evidence, bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty employed to leverage an exemption against abortion waiting periods?’ How is it that the waiting period directly violates any of those?
Put simply: One’s body is subject to one’s own will alone, therefore the process by which one arrives at decisions related to one’s body should never be subjected to the degrading arbitrary whims of petty, pious politicians. The 72 hour waiting period is nothing more than an offensive, intentional imposition upon a deeply personal decision-making process. There is no medical justification for the waiting period, only the ignorant hope that some women may — some time within that 72 hours — only then first consider the ramifications of their choice, consequently reversing course.
The fact is, rational arguments supporting the waiting period are non-existent. Being asked to argue against frivolous and inane regulations inappropriately shifts the question to ‘why not?’ before an answer to ‘why?’ was ever properly articulated. The burden of proof is upon the venal politicians of Missouri, who supported the moronic waiting period bill, to show an imminent need for placing this burden upon women who share our beliefs.
We shall seek to defend our exemptions in court if they are not respected. After decades of attempting to define “religious liberty” in terms of combatting rational family planning, it’s time that the conservative religious right learns that religious liberty works the other way, too.
Those wishing to contribute to The Satanic Temple’s legal fund to defend religious reproductive rights may do so here: http://thesatanictemple.com/religious-reproductive-rights-legal-aid-fund-2/
The Satanic Temple Files Lawsuit Against Abortion Restrictions
Earlier today, 08 May, 2015, an attorney for The Satanic Temple (TST) submitted a legal filing in Missouri opposed to anti-abortion legislation that, according to TST, constitutes a restriction of their free exercise of religion.
“Mary”, a resident of Missouri and member of The Satanic Temple, entered Planned Parenthood at approximately 9:30am seeking to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Mary presented the clinic with a waiver of exemption, provided by TST, in an effort to bypass certain items of compulsory protocol deemed by her and TST to place an undue burden upon her religious beliefs. The exemption waiver was rejected, immediately prompting The Satanic Temple to file a petition for injunction against the Missouri’s Governor, Jay Nixon, and Attorney General Chris Koster.
Specifically at issue are state-mandated “informed consent” materials — medically irrelevant anti-abortion propaganda — and a mandatory 72-hour (3 day) abortion waiting period. TST’s legal argument leverages the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) — commonly popular among Christian conservatives who endorse it as essential to preserving the spiritual innocence of pious bakers who might otherwise be forced to bake cakes for Godless homosexuals — and the move is certain to provoke a firestorm of controversy and witticisms.
In fact, anticipation of TST’s filing has already provoked a number of op-eds and early debates. This past Wednesday, Rolling Stone published a piece examining the hysterical ravings of 5 conservative authors who have already shown their hypocrisy in decrying TST’s free exercise claim, while harboring records of clear support for “religious freedom” only when it benefits their own beliefs.
While nobody can say for certain how this will play out in the courts, most analysts seem to agree that TST makes a strong case. Of course, some aren’t entirely optimistic. On Monday, The Washington Post published a piece entitled ‘A Satanic Temple member says an abortion waiting period is against her religion. Would a court agree?’ in which the journalist took the opinion of one Thomas Berg, a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, who was quoted as saying, “I think it’s possible in theory for someone to raise a religious conscience argument for having an abortion, but it’s unlikely to matter much legally.”:
“According to Berg, an expert on Religious Freedom Restoration Act-style laws, the Satanic Temple’s proposal essentially relies on the same question one would ask to determine whether the 72-hour waiting period violates the earlier decisions at the Supreme Court: Does the law impose a substantial burden on the individual seeking an abortion?”
Berg is correct that the “undue burden” challenge to waiting periods has been raised before, but he’s incorrect in assuming that our claim “essentially relies on the same question”. In fact, our argument is far more nuanced and unique. We argue that the “informed consent” materials are an affront to our guiding principles of self-determination and personal autonomy (beliefs which hold that a woman should be free to make “decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others”). As such, the 72-hour waiting period — itself a burden upon our religious belief in the freedom to make decisions “voluntarily, without coercion and in an informed manner” — is moot and without justification. As the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling affirmed (in upholding Hobby Lobby’s right to believe that certain pharmaceuticals are abortifacients when, in fact, they are not) scientific legitimacy (or lack thereof) can be a matter for personal religious opinion to decide.
When we (The Satanic Temple) first announced, this past summer, that we were offering religious exemptions against “informed consent” propaganda, it provoked a number of speculative dialogues that were also predictably divided. Not surprisingly, legal scholars identified as hailing from traditional religious institutions insisted — often on laughably spurious reasoning — that our exemption was meaningless. Clearly mistaking what they feel ought to be for what is, they gave an early warning as to how ludicrous the debate may soon become now that the exemption is actually to be tested. Other, more objective analysts — such as Cardoza Law Professor Marci Hamilton at the Justia blog, and MSNBC’s Irin Cameron — recognized the strength of our claim, especially now that “the Supreme Court has opened the door to more robust religious exemptions under RFRA.”
But, despite widespread interest and educated support for the legitimacy of our argument, we found it horrifically difficult to secure legal counsel on necessarily short notice. Most every referral and suggestion led us back to the ACLU, which has mysteriously chosen to ignore us entirely. Having exhausted all options we were aware of for pro bono representation, TST has had to retain legal counsel at our own expense, for which we hope to raise funds for here:
We are dedicated to seeing this case through, and we will fight — with every resource available to us — for bodily autonomy and personal sovereignty. No matter the outcome, however, we feel that The Satanic Temple has already done much to reframe the ongoing debate regarding Religious Liberty, its uses and limits. Suddenly gone are the days in which Religious Privilege seemed to exist to the benefit of a single creed. All at once, the all-too-numerous flagrant theocrats holding public office across the nation are made to sullenly realize that Religious Liberty isn’t theirs alone.
What will become of The Satanic Temple’s Baphomet monument now that Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled against the Capitol building’s 10 Commandments monument, mandating that it be taken down?
Early Tuesday morning I received word that the Oklahoma Supreme Court had ruled against the legality of a 10 Commandments monument currently residing on the state capitol grounds. According to the ruling, the monument, only freshly erected, is unconstitutional and must now come down. The Satanic Temple, (TST) having fought to erect a ‘Baphomet’ monument alongside the 10 Commandments — in an effort to reassert plurality and Religious Freedom in the face of this flagrant breach of the line between Church and State — was soon credited by many as being instrumental in the Court’s decision. After all, it could not have been lost on the presiding judges that a ruling in favor of the 10 Commandments would necessitate their consideration of a suit in favor of Baphomet, and any rationale preserving the 10 Commandments could also be leveraged in TST’s favor.
Given the Court’s ruling, TST no longer has any interest in pursuing placement of the Baphomet monument on Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds. The entire point of our effort was to offer a monument that would complement and contrast the 10 Commandments, reaffirming that we live in a nation that respects plurality, a nation that refuses to allow a single viewpoint to co-opt the power and authority of government institutions. This is the very essence of our explicitly secular Constitution. Any one religious monument on public grounds is intolerable. However, once one is allowed, it is orders of magnitude better that many should be represented, rather than a single voice claim unique privilege.
Proving himself as infantile as he is ignorant, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has already declared, in public temper-tantrums, that he will appeal the Court’s decision. Pruitt, either a complete liar or staggeringly miseducated, claims to believe that the public Decalogue serves a secular function, and that “the court completely ignored the profound historical impact of the Ten Commandments on the foundation of Western law.” Pruitt, himself a devout Christian, conveniently fails to recognize the explicitly religious connotations of the counter-Constitutional, flagrantly theocratic and tyrannical ‘Thou Shalts’, which prohibit such American values as Free Speech (“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) and Religious Liberty (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”).
Now, of course, the question on everybody’s mind is: What will become of the Baphomet monument? Over 8 ft. tall and weighing over a ton, the massive, bronze sculptural masterpiece deserves a proper home.
Unfortunately, our insistence that Baphomet only be displayed to complement and contrast a pre-existing public monument of religious signification doesn’t limit our options nearly enough. Pruitt is far from alone in his clownish stupidity, and there are plenty of areas in the United States crying out for a counter-balance to existing graven tributes to archaic Abrahamic barbarism. Arkansas is looking rather appealing, as their Governor recently signed into law a bill permitting placement of a tiresome generic granite Decalogue at their Capitol in Little Rock. The bill in question, authored by one Sen. Jason Rapert, appears plagiarized (in all its laughable historical inaccuracies and embarrassing, unlettered simplicity) from the very bill passed in the Oklahoma Legislature during their now-failed attempt justify their Capitol monument.
Hopefully, when all is said and done, TST will have helped to awaken within a generally lackadaisical public rightful disgust towards public officials — like Pruitt and Rapert — who so mindlessly and shamelessly pursue these infuriatingly unconstitutional undertakings at the expense of taxpayer dollars. The people of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and the world over, deserve better than to suffer politicians who fail to comprehend the very premise of their public duty: the duty to uphold an environment of viewpoint neutrality and plurality, where all people — whether Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Muslim, Satanist, or any “other” — can enjoy equal protection under the law, with preference for, and bigotry against, none.