Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited ruling in The Satanic Temple’s (TST) suit against the State’s mandatory 72-hour abortion waiting period. The ruling, which I immediately characterized in the press as “cowardly and fundamentally corrupt,” dismissed the claim that compulsory state-mandated “Informed Consent” materials proselytizing the religious notion that “The life of each human being begins at conception,” and that, “Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being,” place an undue burden upon adherents of Satanism who neither agree with those propositions nor can they benefit from considering those propositions in the 72-hours they are required to wait after having received them in booklet form. In fact, we argued, when the decision to terminate a pregnancy is arrived at with deference to the fundamental tenets of Satanism, any state effort to delay or dissuade a Satanist from terminating her pregnancy constitutes a violation of her religious freedom.
The Court ruled that though women are obligated to receive the government’s religious propaganda, they are not obligated to read it, thus rendering it benign. The 72-hour waiting period, they declared, does not constitute an undue burden… simply because it doesn’t. The ruling fails to justify the opinion. As I elaborated to a journalist: “The implications of this ruling are clear: the state upholds the right to proselytize, and they also maintain the right to place activities motivated by religious belief — in this case, arriving at the decision to terminate a pregnancy based upon deliberative reference to our tenets — on their own time schedule. I doubt, however, that the Court would be dismissive of the imposition of the dissemination of state-endorsed literature clearly inspired by a minority religious viewpoint, nor do I feel they would rule in favor of an employer who decided to move the Christmas holiday to July for the convenience of the corporation.”
While the immediate question that came to most minds was whether or not we would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, we were suddenly unclear as to whether that option existed for us at all. Our lead lawyer in the suit, James MacNaughton, informed us that just prior to the ruling being handed down, he received an email from an address he did not recognize with a message claiming to be from our plaintiff, “Mary Doe,” demanding that she be withdrawn from the case. MacNaughton was attempting to reach out to Mary Doe by way of her former email address and known phone numbers in an attempt to confirm that the message indeed originated from her. So far, the origin of the message remains unconfirmed. Shortly after the ruling, an article was posted on the site Medium by a member of our former, now disbanded, St. Louis chapter alleging to be an account by Mary Doe which narrated, ludicrously, a perception that the fruitless lawsuit which indebted us hundreds of thousands in legal bills, had in fact somehow been a “cash cow” for TST, along with accusatory conspiracist delusions that TST is secretly an Alt-Right organization that apparently fights for bodily autonomy and equality in a sinister, secretive agenda to further goals of the exact opposite kind.
And so, hundreds of thousand dollars later, with only a nonsense ruling and the gloating of pro-life reporters to show for it, we also earned the defamation of bitter former members intent upon painting our efforts as somehow opportunistic and fascistic. But the disappointment and acrimony was not merely the climax of our efforts in the Mary Doe Religious Reproductive Rights suits. The ugly and savage saga of this litigation started on an unsettling and divisive note, and burdened those of us involved with emotional and financial stress the entire course of its existence. The story is a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse at the horrors that can attach themselves to organizing large volunteer actions.
Enter Mary Doe
In retrospect, it is unfortunate that our first plaintiff was a Missouri resident. The Missouri laws were ripe for challenging, and TST’s announcement that we were demanding religious exemption for our membership from abortion-restricting laws had received widespread national media coverage. We were not surprised when our first plaintiff came forward, but when she did, she reached out to our St. Louis chapter, which was ill-prepared to handle such a campaign. The first St. Louis chapter head was slow to grasp organizational protocol and etiquette, and his first exposures to public speaking and press seemed to impact his behavior in such a way that raised red-flags of attention-seeking behavior: reaching out to press without prior discussion, absolutist public grandstanding as an apparent spokesperson for the organization, attempting to book himself into national conferences, bypassing national approval. Today we have agreements and protocols in place to prevent this behavior, but at the time we thought such things went without saying. Consequently, we were more tolerant of such transgressions for the fact that we had not actually yet elaborated our expectations. We were clear from the beginning, however: any fundraising done in the name of TST had to first be approved at the national level. Thus, when I suddenly caught sight of press reports that the St. Louis chapter was crowdfunding for the expenses of Mary Doe’s travel and lodging so that she might make the long trip to the one Missouri clinic offering abortions, I was alarmed.
On the face of it, crowdfunding for Mary Doe’s expenses may seem innocent and harmless, even virtuous and without credible room for objection. In fact, it was disastrous. TST cofounder Malcolm Jarry and I had been working with a Detroit chapter organizer (and later National Council member), Shiva Honey in a desperate attempt to procure legal council from the moment we heard we had a plaintiff in Missouri. Despite our optimistic expectations, we were unable to attract pro bono support, and we soon found, to our horror, that we might even be unable to find a lawyer willing to take the case for pay. Time was of the essence. Mary Doe needed to go in for the procedure, and we couldn’t delay her, but we needed to be prepared to file as soon as she was denied an exemption from the Informed Consent waiting period. We had somewhere around a week. We lost days to the ACLU in Missouri when a lawyer there expressed strong interest, giving us hope that our search had come to an end, but after taking a weekend off from our search, our contact apparently entered a meeting that preventing him from taking or returning our calls, and he’s never emerged from that meeting since.
Jex Blackmore and I had been constructing the messaging for media, researching case law, and observing reproductive rights debates in order to help prepare her for the potential press frenzy that could accompany the announcement of the lawsuit. We were also setting up the crowdfunding materials that were going to be necessary to pay a retainer fee upon finding a lawyer.
With time running out, Malcolm persuaded a lawyer (James MacNaughton) in New Jersey, with whom he had worked before, to take the case for a reduced rate. We would, however, need to retain co-council in Missouri as well, so the cost was inevitably going to be devastating. Our hope was that the announcement of the suit would attract widespread media coverage, generating sufficient support for our fundraising campaign… but then St. Louis preempted us, announcing the suit to the press early with their fundraising campaign for Mary Doe’s travel and accomodations. The predictable outcome of this is that the initial wave of press — most vital to engaging crowdfunding support — was squandered for a woefully insufficient amount (somewhere around $800). The impression projected to the general public was that our crowdfunding needs were fulfilled after this goal was reached, and we knew it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, to revive crowdfunding interest for the legal battle after the initial announcement was even a few days old. It was a fuck-up that cost us an amount that we can only speculate upon, and we would immediately be thrown into crushing debt as legal bills mounted.
To further exacerbate our annoyance, the St. Louis chapter head released a video of himself along with the ill-thought fundraising campaign posturing himself as a spokesperson for our Reproductive Rights efforts, declaring that he was not going to stand idle while women’s rights were trampled in Missouri. This, of course, did not sit well with either Jex nor I who both felt that she should be the national spokesperson for our Religious Reproductive Rights efforts — a job she was putting a good deal of preparatory work into.
Malcolm wanted to terminate the St. Louis chapter head immediately, and I agreed. In retrospect, it is amazing that we did not, but we were persuaded by another member of the St. Louis chapter, Nikki, to allow her to try to manage him on a probationary term first. Nikki was well-known to Malcolm and I, and she was the only one who was having meaningful, direct contact with Mary Doe, sheltering Doe in her own house and accompanying her to the clinic, so we did not want to alienate her from further participation. She asserted that the chapter head was merely dense and socially unaware, not acting out of malice or an imperiling need for self-aggrandisement. His willingness to adjust his behavior, and her dedication to keeping close scrutiny so as to ensure no more egregious errors, made his dismissal a merely punitive measure with no constructive value. While Malcolm and I were both skeptical, and still infuriated, we felt Nikki’s support, as the one contact in Missouri whom we felt we could rely on, was necessary to maintain, so we yielded.
The Devil and Ms. Doe
At first, I had no idea who “Mary Doe” was, nor was I certain it was wise that I should. It was unclear as to whether I would need to be deposed in the course of the litigation, so not knowing Ms. Doe was possibly a convenience that would bypass a series of potential interrogatories regarding my knowledge of her life, beliefs, and circumstances. All I knew was that she was a member of TST who wanted to terminate her pregnancy, and that was good enough for me. As the legal strategy became clear, however, our lawyer informed me that there was no harm in me speaking to Mary Doe and, in fact, she wanted to speak with me. Ms. Doe was anxious about her own upcoming deposition, and we thought it might be helpful if I were to give her encouragement, let her know that we appreciated what she was doing, and help her mentally prepare for a hostile interview — the type of thing that I’m quite accustomed to.
I allowed Mary Doe to have my personal phone number, and I spoke to her on the phone prior to her deposition which, by our lawyer’s account, she remained stoic, lucid, and credible throughout. Malcolm and I met Mary Doe once when we traveled out to Missouri, getting lunch with her and Nikki at a pizza shop in St. Louis. At that time, she seemed rational and respectful. Not long after, however, her attitude would take a dramatic shift.
Mary Doe was jobless, already had an infant, and had recently departed from an abusive relationship. Nikki offered to put Mary Doe up in her own house temporarily, but soon learned to regret the decision, though she seemed to feel held hostage by the need to appease Mary Doe, lest she drop out of the case — a threat Doe had increasingly begun to leverage when making demands upon Nikki’s hospitality. After her deposition, Mary Doe had no actual obligations related to the case at all. Dropping out of the case would have achieved nothing for her, but would merely halt our efforts to challenge abortion restrictions in Missouri. Doe had also begun making demands for my attention, texting and calling late at night, apparently while inebriated, threatening to pull out of the case if I did not speak to her, and hurling bizarre accusations at me. All the while, Doe maintained that, though kept entirely anonymous throughout it all, she was selflessly endangering her life in being our plaintiff.
Mary Doe’s identity was a closely guarded secret among those of us who knew, but Doe herself had taken to interacting with TST members on Facebook, revealing her role in the lawsuit while simultaneously expressing a paranoia that she would be found out, stalked, harassed, and potentially killed. She managed to elicit financial support from at least one TST member through their social media interactions. Doe had temporarily gotten a job while living with Nikki which she abandoned, often leaving Nikki to watch over her child while she went out drinking, partying, or whatever else she was doing. In a letter sent to me, which I still have, Nikki elaborated a list of house rules to Ms. Doe which indicated a strained relationship, including demands that Doe begin cleaning up after herself and her child, and that she try to refrain from engaging in loud late-night phone arguments that would keep Nikki and her family awake at night.
It was unclear what Mary Doe’s ultimate goal was, especially with her vague incessant threats to pull out of the case that were directed at me. One night, she called me after reading some conspiracist bullshit about me on the internet threatening that she was going to go public with what she had read on somebody else’s already-public blog. By that point, I was fed up. I assumed she was building toward asking for financial compensation to continue on as a plaintiff, but that demand never arrived. I told her that I could not be held hostage any longer and that she needed to stop contacting me. The litigation was only in its infancy, and if it were demonstrated to Doe that we would collectively or individually submit to her every demand each and every time she threatened to abandon the suit, it was clear there would be no end to her requests, and there was no assurance she would not ultimately pull out of the case in a fit of aimless spite at any point thereafter anyways.
I spoke to MacNaughton about the problem of this unmanageable plaintiff. Speaking to him was something I had avoiding doing because I was concerned that he might abandon the suit upon being apprised of the situation. Predictably, he was concerned and he resolved to speak directly to Mary Doe and establish that she was still comfortable moving forward with the case (which, again, only required of her that she not formally remove herself as plaintiff), and if so, he demanded, she was to stop contacting myself and other members of TST whom she was treating similarly with late night calls full of berating aimless allegations and threats to leave the case should one hang up. We were relieved and surprised when she agreed to these terms, but I was skeptical that she could hold to them.
Shot in St. Louis
At first, Nikki was panicked, and she contacted me immediately. She had received word that Mary Doe had suffered a gunshot wound to the chest, and was in a St. Louis hospital in critical condition. Soon, however, enough inconsistencies and implausibilities in the narrative emerged that it quickly became increasingly obvious that the event was fabricated. By this point, Mary Doe had relocated into an apartment, and if I remember correctly, Nikki hadn’t heard from her in a bit and was concerned. The claim that she had been shot by some pro-life zealot had come via text, allegedly from an emergency room doctor who took hold of her phone and was attempting to reach out to an emergency contact. A request to speak directly on the phone had been denied. The hospital had been named, but a direct call to the hospital revealed that our Mary Doe was not registered there. Via text still, Nikki inquired as to the name of the doctor supposedly treating Doe. She was told that it was a “Dr. Carl Jung.”
Throughout all of this emotional turmoil, Mary Doe would oscillate between her more common state of abusiveness to intermittent and brief episodes of remorse and seeming compassion for her victims. One TST member who would receive her late night abuse forever resents that Mary Doe kept her on the phone an entire night — a night in which her cousin would die of cancer while Mary Doe’s threats to abandon the case should she hang up ended up preventing her from saying goodbye. Mary Doe would later apologize blaming a heroin addiction that she alleged had been cultivated as the result of a toothache.
Nikki took more abuse from Mary Doe than anybody, and her attempts to care for Doe went well beyond the call of duty, and certainly were far above and beyond anything we would have expected or dared ask of her. Nikki genuinely cared about Mary Doe’s well-being, and we were all deeply invested in the outcome of our litigation against Missouri’s prohibitive abortion restrictions. Nikki’s attachment to the national Religious Reproductive Rights campaign, however, soon began to take on unreasonable dimensions, straining her relationship with other volunteers in TST.
Under Jex, the Detroit chapter had staged a counter-protest in front of a Planned Parenthood where “pro-life” protesters were chanting Catholic prayers and displaying full-color posters of aborted fetuses. The now famous “The Future of Baby is Now” counter-protest had members of the Detroit chapter dressed in diapers, bondage gear, and baby masks wailing, pouring baby powder over their heads and bodies in an admittedly somewhat abstract criticism of the “pro-life” fetishization of the fetus. While the counter-protest certainly attracted attention, not everybody in TST was happy about it. Some felt its message was too obscure, and that the theatrics undermined the gravity of the situation and overshadowed the respectable work TST was doing in litigating against abortion restrictions in Missouri. It was a legitimate debate, the likes of which are common in our organization. Nikki was particularly incensed, but her arguments veered into the hysterical. To her, it was not only poor messaging, but she imagined it directly imperiled the lives of women in Missouri in ways she never made clear.
Nikki began to frame every issue in the stark terminology of life and death choices. Signs of paranoia abounded. Occasionally, she would exhibit a compulsion to speak that was unnatural and unsettling. She would speak aimlessly and endlessly, sometimes repeating the same story immediately having finished telling it. She was serving on our National Council at the time, and we were concerned that sometimes her input was unchecked by reason and unrelated to the discussions we were having. At one point, she misinterpreted the dialogue to a degree in which nobody was certain how she had drawn the conclusions she had, but it led her to accuse a then-new addition to the council, Stu, of some type of treason against TST.
National Council received its first “ethics” complaint from Nikki that threatened legal action against TST in reply to what she felt were defamatory comments made against an individual whom she hoped would lead an After School Satan Club (ASSC) in Springfield. The complaint alleged that in our Facebook forum, this would-be ASSC instructor had been characterized as a “racist,” a damaging claim that forum moderators were remiss to allow pass unpunished. In an interracial marriage with children herself, I felt Nikki’s claim of the misattribution of racism was probably well-founded, but I found her reaction against TST for she saw as poor forum moderation was extreme. However, when I was directed to the Facebook page of the individual for whom she had been claiming slander, I was more than a little shocked. Status update after status update was dedicated to decrying Black Lives Matter, while almost every other post was obsessed with statistical differences between white and black populations, making proclamations of the type that blame the black population for the disproportionate number of police shootings they suffer on the grounds that they are responsible for the majority of crime.
While Nikki insisted that her pick to lead ASSC Springfield was merely analysing facts in an effort to reach reasonable conclusions and spark debate, I felt that one could reasonably speculate, whether she agreed with them or not, that the nature of this man’s focus was a product of racist proclivities. Further, I thought that her choice to have this man lead ASSC in Springfield was a particularly poor one, as a member of the City Council in Springfield, Kristi Fulnecky, upon learning of our application to a Springfield school district declared that the district was within their rights to deny the application of a “hate group” without qualifying why she felt TST was associated with hate. Nikki’s pick to lead ASSC was at least teetering at the brink of hate speech, and given his apparent obsession with race-related topics, he seemed poised to well overstep lines that would be intolerable to TST and damaging to our reputation at-large.
Randomly Connecting “the Dots”
Councilwoman Fulnecky’s grandstanding against TST led to a spiral of paranoia that Nikki descended down, apparently with the aid of a woman she had befriended by the name of Gwen. Gwen, it was alleged, had served in the military and was an expert in cryptography. Either Gwen or Nikki had stumbled upon a YouTube channel that displayed a number of videos with a scenic background, seemingly random letters, and eerie music. The channel was supposedly run, according to Gwen and Nikki, by some sinister militant Christian cabal known as “the Dots.” The Dots, they later alleged to National Council, were sinister henchmen to Kristi Fulnecky, though how the connection to Fulnecky was supposedly made was never made clear. In an urgent message to National Council, Gwen wrote:
I have been working with Saint Louis Chapter Head Nikki […], on the breaking of a number of codes which appear to have been created by a fringe Christian group. It is my opinion that the group which we have come to refer to as “The Dots” is not merely potentially dangerous… but imminently. Aside from the disturbing language and imagery in the videos contained in this file, there is a significant feature which causes me great alarm.
In the first video whose code I was able to decipher, there is a torch-lit scene which at first appears like a “drawing down” or “circle casting” one might find in Wiccan ceremonies. However, I do not believe this is what we are witnessing. A prominent feature in this footage is a large birdcage which is of a size that could easily accommodate a human adult. As a former student of the Occult, I can honestly say that I have no familiarity with the ceremony being performed. My knowledge is relatively extensive. When I attempted to reference uses for such an object in ritual workings, I found allusions to a mishmash of (for lack of a better term) Modern Christian Mysticism.
The most common answer I was able to detect, was the suggestion that a cage such as this is meant to figuratively represent a cage for a soul. If the people featured in the video are in fact those whom we have been investigating, it is my opinion that the cage’s intended use is not figurative. These people are literalists who believe they are fighting a war against us. The group appears to be particularly fixated on Nikki. They have indicated that they are “watching”. I have been mulling this for some time, and I have come to the conclusion that the cage is either intended for her, or for whomever among us they may be able to lay hands upon.
“The Dots” have a strong connection to both Christine Fulnecky, the Springfield Missouri Councilwoman, and to one Calvin Morrow. Morrow is a conservative pastor who frequently praises Fulnecky […]
Gwen provided a series of nonsense charts and ciphers, all indicating that Nikki was the primary target in a plot that included kidnapping and murder.
Nikki, meanwhile, was growing increasingly agitated at the activities of other chapters, especially as they related to Reproductive Rights. Any attempt at fundraising for Reproductive Rights by other chapters was seen by Nikki not only as encroachment upon Missouri’s turf, but also as a threat against Missouri women. On National Council, it became apparent that she was engaged in punitive voting — that is, when she had a disagreement with a chapter’s activity, with a chapter head, or even chapter member, she would work to deny their proposals outright. The National Council was growing increasingly uneasy with her presence.
Nikki’s second “ethics” complaint was delivered with the demand that we rectify the situation she cited therein or be subject to litigation. The legal threat, of course, led to immediate discussion as to whether we should engage with her at all, or if we would be wise to immediately dissolve our relationship with her. The complaint was in relation to a private (either text or Facebook Messenger) discussion between a member of National Council and St. Louis local, Brian, and a member of the Springfield chapter. Brian expressed disgust at Nikki’s behavior, and at the way she managed the St. Louis chapter. He said a few things that were regrettable, and that I’m sure he would not have said if he had known that the conversation would be made public. Nikki had suffered the loss of a child, and Brian expressed frustration at the feeling that she leveraged this fact at every available opportunity to gain credibility and/or sympathy. Brian also expressed irritation that since Gwen, a trans woman, had become involved, each and every meeting consisted solely of discussions about trans rights. His terminology was crass, but in the context of the discussion, his meaning was clear, and I was greatly annoyed that the Springfield member had decided to disclose this hurtful discussion with Nikki, even as the member who disclosed the dialogue could be seen in that dialogue openly encouraging such statements to be made.
Another Springfield member and potential chapter head (at the time, Springfield was a satellite chapter of St. Louis), meanwhile, wanted nothing more to do with Nikki due to the “Dots” insanity, precipitating his exit from TST entirely. (Later, the Springfield member who shared Brian’s private dialogue with Nikki would apply to be chapter head, for which he was denied. Not long ago he could be found soliciting any and all TST members or ex-TST members for any information about TST that might be damaging to us.)
In an emergency meeting of the National Council, Nikki was unanimously terminated from her role in the organization, after which she and Gwen went on to found an organization they call Ordo Sororitatis Satanicae.
Subsequent years passed while our litigation against abortion restrictions would drag on, suffering thoughtless dismissals from puzzled judges, whereupon we filed appeals and continued to pile-on a massive debt in hopes of making some small breakthrough for reproductive rights. In the end, there was at least the concession by the state that what was previously interpreted as mandatory — an ultrasound and audio of the fetal heartbeat — is optional. It is a small victory after years of financial hemorrhaging and emotional distress, but we feel we fought the fight to the best of our ability, and we continue that fight now with a new plaintiff, Judy Doe, in Missouri.
I have never met nor spoken to Judy Doe. (Malcolm has dealt with her directly, as, of course, has MacNaughton.)
I have not spoken to Nikki since her termination from TST. Recently, Nikki has decried TST’s representation of Mary Doe as exploitation, and as a “cash cow” for TST. This is presumably based upon the words of Mary Doe herself, with whom Nikki has allegedly reconnected. Mary Doe’s whereabouts are unknown and her participation in such claims against us is unconfirmed.