The Satanic Temple
The words "Praise Satan" conjure images of devil worship, the burning of dungeons and dragons books and animal sacrifice, or at the very least Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Most of us in the western world live in societies heavily influenced by Christian religions, even if we don't practice it ourselves, we generally are aware that Jesus was the good guy and Satan was the bad guy. So how has a religion named after such a controversial figure become one of the most progressive religions, not just that, organizations, in the modern world? Welcome to The Satanic Temple
Ok, lets go back a couple steps, how the hell did a religion called the Satanic Temple become a major religion? Well the year was 2012 and the place was a function at the Harvard faculty club. A man named Malcolm Jarry had engaged in a friendly debate with a woman over the public school system. Jarry's position was that public schools were more akin to prisons not designed to actually educate but to teach compliance with authority. The woman on the other hand didn't see the issue, her public school experience having been entirely positive.
The debate wasn't going anywhere until Doug Mesner, who had been sitting on a couch nearby, chimed in, siding with Jarry. The woman lost interest, leaving Mesner and Jarry to get better acquainted. Unknowingly, this meeting would be the catalyst for all things to come
Jarry and Mesner didn't share much of the same interests, but quickly became friends, bonding over their shared distaste of the George W Bush administration and how the political power of conservative evangelicals was continually rising at a concerning pace.
The two became friends, even roommates for a bit. Both held several degrees, with a big interest in music and art
Both Mesner and Jarry grew up in the age of the "Satanic Panic". For Jarry the moral outrage and fear mongering intrigued him, sparking a lifelong interest in psychology, while Mesner became deeply interested in science, hoping to one day educate that public about the harm of recovered memories and moral panic.
Mesner's research ironically would spawn his interest in Satanism and he began reading the essays of Anton LaVey the founder of the Church of Satan and by the end of high school he considered himself a Satanist and would become involved with the CoS for the next decade, helping produce materials, report on happenings and providing illustrations for the Church's documentation and newsletters.
In 2009 he reported on a conference held in Connecticut by a group called SMART "Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today" and organization founded in 1995 as a forum for people who believed they were victims of mind control and ritual abuse and as well as therapists who claim they can aid their recovery. Mesner was flabbergasted that even though it was decades after the Satanic Panic had ended, there were still licensed professionals supporting such ideas. He wrote a scathing article on his blog and was met with hostility of SMART and its supporters, many accusing him of being involved with a "cult of Satanic Pedophiles". Exposing SMART has become a passionate side project ever since.
We have these two very passionate young men, who thought the system was failing and demanding change. How does this make a religion?
Well you see there was a bill, signed in Mar 2012 by Florida governor Rick Scott that allowed for students to read "inspirational messages of their choosing" at assemblies and sporting events. While the term "inspirational messages" sounded quite neutral, early drafts saw the word "prayer" used instead and it was very clear the bill was intended to allow for Christian prayer in school.
This deeply disturbed Jarry, the idea that already sparse public school resources may be allocated to the teaching of Christian messages was appalling. But the bill said that students could promote any "inspirational message" they chose. Including -in theory- a Satanic one. This idea was the spark.
Jarry decided it was time he do something to challenge the broken system, to call attention to the hypocrisy. And he knew the perfect way to do it: by holding a rally in support of Rick Scott! But not any rally: a satanic one.
Jarry called upon Mesner's expertise in satanism to write up a speech and he had a friend that was a film maker document the event.
On January 25 2013 at the capitol steps, Mesner, using the pseudonym Lucien Greaves and four black cloak-wearing minions approached the podium, a large banner that read "Hail Satan! Hail Rick Scott". Lucien Greaves gives a short speech condemning the public perception of Satanism as "nothing more than a paranoid conspiracy theory" and praising Rick Scott for the opportunity to dispel these myths and educate children about Satanism. A man in horns and black cloak approaches the podium, introduced as "The High Priest"
He gives a short speech and concludes with
"We feel confident that Rick Scott has helped initiate the inevitable-opening the gates of hell to unleash a new Luciferean age that will last one thousand years and beyond! Hail Rick Scott! Hail Satan!"
Pamphlets were handed out contained comics and literature in support of Satanism, penned and drawn by Mesner and was the first place the name Lucien Greaves would appear publicly
To anyone picking up on what was being done, the rally is hysterical, but the conservative, religious right? Well they didn't like that one bit.
The story quickly made national coverage, it was inspiring discussion, which is what Mesner and Jarry had intended. But some identified it as a prank, even finding a casting call that Jarry's documentarian friend had put out to find their horned high priest.
But Jarry and Mesner's intentions were pure, they chose Satanism as their vehicle because these were the things that CoS should be doing in Mesner's opinion, but wasn't. This was activism, and for them it went off far better than they had expected, though they hadn't intended to do anything else with it, much less start a religion
But then a couple short months later, on Apr 13, bombs were set off at the Boston Marathon, killing three people. A horrible event, made only worse when the Westboro Baptist Church declared their plans to picket the funerals of the victims.
Jarry and Mesner were discussing the arrival of the Westboro Baptist Church to their city when Jarry got an idea, to photograph gay couples kissing over the grave of Catherine Johnston, mother of the church's founder, Fred Phelps
Flash forward a couple months later, photos of a gay couple kissing over Catherine Johnston's grave while Mesner, in the character of Lucien Greaves oversaw this ritual they would dub a "Pink Mass"
The statement they
put out was that the Pink Mass was a ritual that would turn the person whose
grave it is done over gay in the after life, and thus all same sex kisses
performed over the grave would pleasure the person in the after life. So yeah.
They were pleasuring Fred Phelps's mother, who was now a lesbian, by performing
gay rituals over her grave. Really what better way to troll the mother of the
Westboro Baptist Church leader?
The pictures naturally spread like wildfire, but that wasn't all, before departing, Mesner, as Greaves decided to give Mrs. Johnston one final send off. By placing his balls on the headstone. Which of course there are pictures of
As Jarry says:
"The Westboro Baptist Church feeds on hate. But there's no good reply to people laughing at you, and no one had ever laughed at them before."
Joseph P. Laycock, author Speak of the Devil: How the Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk About Religion, who spent a couple years researching the temple and speaking to members of the church, one of the things he heard most frequently was that the Pink Mass was the reason they joined TST.
After the Pink Mass, Jarry and Mesner realized they were onto something. For Mesner, these events weren't just publicity stunts, while they were making up the prayers and rituals, these were things he believed in and were very much rooted Church of Satan traditions and beliefs, he was quickly realizing these were the things CoS SHOULD be doing and Jarry agreed.
"When it began, we didn't have the audacity to think we could start a religious movement organization like we have now. Soon that all changed, however, when we saw just what a need there had been for an actual relevant active Satanist organization because one hadn't existed up until then. So instead of people kind of taking up the banner on their own, they all started coming to us and looking to us for the next activity"
Their religion would
need a spokesperson, and up until this point it had always been Mesner, as
Lucien Greaves writing all their religious texts and speeches. He never wanted
to be in the spotlight, but reluctantly, he accepted the job, knowing there was
no other way
"I had to become Lucien. It just became obvious that you're not going to be able to coach somebody on what we think and feel. We couldn't constantly have a feed going into his ear."
Jarry felt that Mesner was the best spokesperson they could hope for, not only was he very knowledgeable when it came to all matters satanist, but physically, his appearance was quite striking. Mesner has a corneal scar on his right eye
To have a religion, well you have to have beliefs.
The first thing you will notice looking at a TST website or pamphlet is satanic images of a goat-like devil, but then you will see the slogan "Empathy. Reason. Advocacy". Those words are what defines TST and sets it apart from all other religions
The first thing to understand about the satanic temple is that despite its name it is what's considered a nontheistic religious organization which basically means a religion whose practices and beliefs don't have a focus or dependency on gods or a god-like figure.
Wherein most catholic religions focus heavily on God and his side characters. Praying to them for absolution or solutions. In these religions you turn to god to ask for forgiveness for your sins and ultimately god determines what your final destination is. If a loved one is sick you pray to god, you lose your job, you pray to god, you're relationship isn't working? You pray to god. Where religions like Buddhism most the practices revolve around internal balance and peace. You're empowered to change your life
Now this is obviously painting those religions with very broad strokes, but it gives you a general idea
The Satanic Temple does not believe in a supernatural Satan; instead it employs the literary Satan as a metaphor to promote pragmatic skepticism, rational reciprocity, personal autonomy, and curiosity. Satan is thus used as a symbol representing "the eternal rebel" against arbitrary authority and social norms.
Mission and Observances
According to the organization's website the mission of the Satanic Temple is to:
...encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense, oppose injustice, and undertake noble pursuits. The Satanic Temple has publicly confronted hate groups, fought for the abolition of corporal punishment in public schools, applied for equal representation when religious installations are placed on public property, provided religious exemption and legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women's reproductive autonomy, exposed harmful pseudo-scientific practitioners in mental health care, organized clubs alongside other religious after-school clubs in schools besieged by proselytizing organizations, and engaged in other advocacy in accordance with our tenets.
The Satanic Temple has seven fundamental tenets:
- One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.
- The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
- One's body is inviolable, subject to one's own will alone.
- The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one's own.
- Beliefs should conform to one's best scientific understanding of the world. One should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit one's beliefs.
- People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one's best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused.
- Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.
The Satanic Temple promotes five holidays.
- February 15: Lupercalia
- April 30: Hexennacht
- July 25: Unveiling Day
- October 31: Halloween
- December 25: Sol Invictus
One thing they make abundantly clear is this is not grandpa Levay's brand of satanism, but something new, something more involved. One thing that Mesner repeatedly criticizes the CoS for is their complete lack of action, seriously, what is the last thing you have heard about the Church of Satan? For me it was in a Marilyn Manson autobiography that I read in high school and there was certainly no activism or altruism being performed there. Also fuck Marilyn Manson, but that's another story
On their website, TST has a handy quick reference guide that depicts the differences between TST and COS
"stunts" (as they're called by the media) drew international
attention and before long there were people all over the world that wanted to
be a part of the TST
Chapters of TST have
been established across North America, Europe and Australia, the first was
established in Detroit, Michigan in 2014.
The Satanic Temple opened its official headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts, in 2016. The former Victorian funeral home is painted charcoal and doubles as the Salem Art Gallery
To establish a chapter you must apply to the council of the Satanic Temple. All applicants must have two leaders for their chapter (to help with stability if one has to take a leave of absence or becomes unable to fulfill their duty to the temple)
These two leaders are interviewed, usually by Mesner and Jarry themselves and once the application is approved, the chapter will be assigned a council member as a point of contact
This wasn't always smooth sailing though. The popularity of the Satanic Temple skyrocketed with each protest or piece of activism the temple performed, and demand for new chapters exploded from all over the world, the council had difficulties keeping up with it all.
They had never expected such interest and had never intended for their religion to spread overseas, but here they were. As they worked through the backlog of applications there were times where they had to deny applications for safety reasons.
Some of the places that wanted to establish chapters would put themselves at serious risk of religiously motivated violence (think of places like Peru and Uganda) and Mesner and Jarry knew there was no way they could ensure their safety
With such a demand and such a backlog, naturally unofficial chapters would be established by those waiting for their applications to go through
TST has multiple official online communities serving various congregations. Unofficial communities have surfaced on platforms such as Discord and Reddit, where a popular unofficial subreddit is /r/SatanicTemple_Reddit: an online forum serving TST members and "Satanists who identify with the Seven Tenets", with over 31,000 subscribers as of April 2022
Jarry and Mesner's concern about the safety of their people was not ill-founded. While to many of us on the left-leaning spectrum and of alternative lifestyles perspectives, TST sounds like a great thing, standing up to the man and fighting for human rights, this isn't something everyone is excited about and TST has faced issues with discrimination and even death threats
In May 2014, the Temple scheduled a Black Mass to be held on the Harvard University campus, sponsored by the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club; the event was forced to relocate off campus due to significant opposition by Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and school administrators.
On February 12, 2022, the Satanic Temple held their first SatanCon convention inside Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. Outside the hotel, hundreds of Christians protested the convention holding crucifixes, crosses, and signs denouncing Satan. According to one report based on a tweet, at one point, police were forced to intervene at the protest after some Protestant and Catholic protesters started fighting against each other over their theological differences.
The Satanic Temple has received some criticism for their actions, most notably from religious organizations and figures. Many critics state that they believe that the Temple is not a serious organization and is instead meant to be a prank, form of satire, or elaborate trolling attempt. Greaves and Blackmore [once chapter-head of Detroit] have both dismissed these claims, as Greaves stated in a 2013 interview with Vice that the Temple could be both satanic and satirical. Blackmore has also stated that people believe that they are only "trying to cause trouble for no reason except to just be shocking", but the Temple says they are "adding to the dialogue that's already there and asking for rights -- just like anyone else."
Both Greaves and Blackmore have stated that they have received death threats in response to their activities with The Satanic Temple.
TST has generated positive attention as well. Valerie Tarico of Salon wrote that the tenets were egalitarian and "truer to the words of Jesus than most Christians," referring to the tenets as expressing the primacy of compassion and empathy and conducive to a path to equanimity. This sentiment was echoed by Progressive Secular Humanist blogger Michael Stone who compared the tenets as superior to the Ten Commandments, claiming the tenets offer "a more moral, and more optimistic stance, emphasizing positive, pro-social values."
On April 25, 2019, the Temple announced it had received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, being classified as a "church or a convention or association of churches."
Announcing the new tax status co-founder Lucien Greaves stated: "In light of theocratic assaults upon the Separation of Church and State in the legislative effort to establish a codified place of privilege for one religious viewpoint, we feel that accepting religious tax exemption - rather than renouncing in protest - can help us to better assert our claims to equal access and exemption while laying to rest any suspicion that we don't meet the qualifications of a true religious organization. Satanism is here to stay."
Oxford Press Book
The 2020 book Speak of the Devil: How the Satanic Temple Is Changing the Way We Talk About Religion is the first academic monograph to focus on the organization
So lets get to the fun stuff, the activism
One of most well known "stunts" performed by the TST involved the creation of an 8.5 foot tall bronze statue of Baphomet.
Baphomet is half goat/half figure, with angel like wings, horns and breasts, as picture here in an early illustration by Eliphas Levi as published in 1856
Baphomet was deity allegedly worshipped by the Knights Templar, that would end up becoming incorporated into various occult traditions. The name Baphomet appeared in trial transcripts for the Inquisition of the Knights Templar starting in 1307. It first came into popular English usage in the 19th century during debate and speculation on the reasons for the suppression of the Templar order
The image drawn by Éliphas Lévi, composed of binary elements representing the "symbolization of the equilibrium of opposites" half-human and half-animal, male and female, good and evil, etc. Lévi's intention was to symbolize his concept of balance, with Baphomet representing the goal of perfect social order.
So as you would expect this is a popular symbol among Satanic and witchcraft religions and practices
So naturally when TST wanted to challenge installment of the Ten Commandments Monument that had been installed at the Oklahoma State Capitol, it was the perfect symbol.
See TST didn't have a problem with the ten commandments per see, but what they did have a problem with was the lack of separation of church and state. For so long in the US, religious plurality and freedom has mostly been symbolic, with only really Christian religions taking full advantage of these laws.
TST petitioned the council responsible for the capital grounds, requesting that they could put their own religious symbol on the grounds as well. Basically saying they either uphold the law that allows for religious expression of any kind, or take down the ten commandments statue
The council didn't know what to make of this and many assumed it was a joke
But then TST began a very successful indiegogo campaign and with it drew the attention of the nation. Not long after other petitions and donations of other religious statues poured in, including a statue of the monkey deity Lord Hanuman by the Universal Society of Hinduism and even a Flying Spaghetti Monster from everyone's favorite satirical internet religion. Apparently even Peta offered to make a monument as well though I am not sure what that would have been and I don't think I want to know
The more attention this petition received the more pressure it put on the Oklahoma legislature to declare their position. Mike Reynolds, a state representative argued that the 10 commandments had historical significance but Mesner was quick to counter with the fact that so does Satan
Satanism is a fundamental component at the genesis of American liberty. Medieval witch-hunts taught us to adopt presumption of innocence, secular law, and a more substantive burden of proof. Today, we are rightly offended by the notion of blasphemy laws and divine fiats. Acknowledging wrongful persecutions has helped shape the legal system that preserves the sovereignty of our skeptics, heretics, and the misunderstood. It has shaped a proud culture of tolerance and free inquiry. This is to be a historical marker commemorating the scapegoats, the marginalized, the demonized minority, and the unjustly outcast.
Many celebrated TST's stance, fighting the man, fighting for justice and equality. But others were appalled and voiced it loudly, including Bernard McGuirk a Fox News Executive Producer had this to say in Jan 9 2014
"They should be able to put the statue up and then they should be shot right next to it."
Legal counsel for TST responded with a letter to Fox News demanding an apology, stating:
"Advocacy of the murder of American citizens based on their religious beliefs is intolerable and sickening. For [Fox News] to disseminate such a position as part of a televised debate on a national network strikes at the heart of this country's founding principles and potentially places the Temple's members in imminent danger."
McGuirk responded with an on air apology, stating:
"My comments were rooted in ignorance. Satanists do not promote evil a la Charles Manson"
With all the attention their proposal was causing, when it was time to begin construction of the statue, TST decided to go broke or go home, and to have the 8.5" statue made out of bronze. The campaign had brought in $30,000 but the 1.5 ton statue would end up costing $100,000. Jarry and Mesner would foot the rest of the bill out of their own pocket. They were in it to win it.
A decision was made to not include breasts on their baphomet, despite it being the traditional representation, they had to comply with the standards of the Oklahoma Capitol Preservation Commission. The 6 month construction was under way.
In Oct 2014 though, Michael Tate Reed-a self-described "Jesus freak" diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder-destroyed the Ten Commandments monument by crashing his car into it. Greaves released a statement announcing that TST was "appalled" by this act of vandalism. He explained,
"To be clear, The Satanic Temple will not seek to erect its monument unless the 10 Commandments is restored."
In July 2015 the Baphomet statue was unveiled in Detroit, but only a few months later the 10 commandments monument was removed from the Oklahoma capital leaving Baphomet without purpose and would be moved to the TST headquarters when they were established in Sept 2016.
But back in 2015, a nearly identical controversy began when the Arkansas state legislature passed a bill decreeing the erection of a ten command commandments monument at their state capitol. So naturally TST made the same offer there, and this time their petition was taken very seriously, even come to discussions on where on the grounds the statue would go
But before this petition could go to hearing, the petition was cancelled due to a new law that was applied retroactively to their proposal that required that legislation must first approve any monument proposals before the Arts and Grounds Commission would get their say. This bill was even rushed into law as it was declared an emergency, because it was "necessary for the preservation of public peace, health and safety"
TST's lawyer argued this was discrimination but in the mean time legislature installed the ten commandments monument on Jun 18 2017. As TST was preparing to go to legal war the point became moot when our good friend Michael Tate Reed, a resident of Arkansas once again destroyed the 10 commandments monument with his car, and this time he filmed it while yelling "Freedom!"
And don't worry I have that video
A new 10
commandments monument was installed on Apr 26 2018, this time with concrete
barriers to prevent car attack. TST filed their discrimination suit which is
still pending today. In the meantime Baphomet continues to live at the Salem
Now let's bang through some of their other advocacies
A project with the goal of exposing malpractice and pseudoscience associated with Satanic ritual abuse conspiracy theories. The Grey Faction protests medical conferences, initiates legal action, and petitions medical boards.
Protect Children Project
Launched in the spring of 2014, the Protect Children Project aims to offer "First Amendment protection to support children who may be at risk for being subjected to mental or physical abuse in school by teachers and administrators through the use of solitary confinement, restraints, and corporal punishment. In March 2017, The Satanic Temple launched an anti-spanking campaign against corporal punishment in schools, as part of the Protect Children Project. They unveiled billboards in Texas which read "Never be hit in school again. Exercise your religious rights."
Planned Parenthood counter-protests
On August 22, 2015 the Detroit chapter of The Satanic Temple held a counter-protest outside of a Ferndale Planned Parenthood location in response to anti-abortionist groups planned protest on the same date. This was not the first protest of this type that the Temple had held in support of the organization, as they had previously held a 2013 protest where they brought children to the Texas State Capitol who chanted "Fuck You" and "Hail Satan", while holding signs reading "Stay Out Of My Mommy's Vagina".
On April 23, 2016, members of the Detroit chapter of the Temple counter protested the Citizens for a Pro-Life Society's protest of Planned Parenthood. Temple members dressed in bondage fetish clothing, wearing baby masks and diapers while engaging in flagellation. The Temple said that the reason for the protest was to "expose the anti-choice protest as an act of fetal idolatry, highlighting the fetishization and abstraction of the 'baby.'"
Muslim refugee activism
In November 2015 the Temple received media attention for offering to take in Muslims or refugees that were afraid of experiencing backlash over the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris.
Demonization of Junipero Serra
The Temple's Los Angeles Chapter protested the canonization of Junípero Serra by Pope Francis and in October 2015 they held a ceremony where they "demonized" the Christian missionary, stating that Serra helped enslave thousands of Native Americans and that he "also led The Spanish Inquisition in his territories, trying residents of the Missions for the crimes of sorcery, witchcraft and devil worship."
On June 6, 2016, the Temple performed a pentagram ritual around the Lancaster, California, to support California State Senate candidate Steve Hill, who hoped to be the first Satanic Temple member elected to public office.
After School Satan
After School Satan is an after school program sponsored by The Satanic Temple. It was created in July 2016 as an alternative to the Christian-based after school group called the Good News Club
Los Angeles Satanic Mass
On January 14, 2017, a week before the Trump presidential inauguration, the Temple hosted what it billed as the largest Satanic gathering in history, hoping to double the attendance of the 2015 gathering in Detroit for the Baphomet unveiling. Film crews from VICE and NatGeo were on hand to document the event. The mass included three parts: Invocation Ritual, Destruction Ritual and a Bloodletting Ritual. Local Los Angeles media was also on hand to cover the event, calling the event "a bloody good time"
Chapters throughout the United States have erected various displays to appear adjacent to Christian Nativity scenes on public grounds. A display in the Florida State Capitol rotunda in 2014 featured an angel falling from the sky into a pit of flames, which was vandalized and then modified as a result. That same year a display at the Michigan State Capitol featured the message "The Greatest Gift is Knowledge" and a depiction of a snake wrapped around a black Leviathan cross. Sponsored by the Detroit chapter, this "Snaketivity" display returned to Lansing capitol grounds in 2015, and again in 2016.
Following a pandemic hiatus on holiday displays in their State Capitol, the Illinois congregation announced a new sculpture for the rotunda in celebration of Sol Invictus 2021: Baphomet as a newborn baby. Local Catholic bishop Thomas Paprocki declined an invitation to attend the installation of the statue, which took place December 20.
Religious abortion ritual
Following a failed abortion lawsuit in June 2020 the Satanic Temple announced a religious abortion ritual on August 5, 2020, exempting members in RFRA states from "enduring medically unnecessary and unscientific abortion regulations when seeking to terminate their pregnancy".
In September 2021, as part of its opposition to the Texas Heartbeat Act, the Satanic Temple wrote the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, saying that it had a faith-based right to access medical abortion drugs, including misoprostol and mifepristone.
In 2022, Roe v. Wade was overturned in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, ending federal abortion rights and allowing individual states to regulate their own abortion laws. Following this, the Satanic Temple commented on Twitter that the organization was "the leading beacon of light in the battle for abortion access", and that "a religious exemption [from the Satanic Temple] will be the only available challenge to many restrictions to access".
Though this was criticized by Jezebel magazine as this could put women seeking abortions into legal jeopardy as this claim was untested
Other acts was
menstruation for satan in Tucson AZ where they collected donations of
menstrual products for homeless shelters, as well as socks. In Seattle, they
were a massive blood drive
In Arizona they adopted a stretch of the I-10 and would maintain that section of highway using pitch forks to pick up the trash
In santa cruz they adopted a beach in the same manner
But it's not all sunshine and social justice
In 2018, Jex Blackmore the head of the Detroit chapter of TST held a ritual on behalf of the Satanic Temple with members of the local chapter. This ritual would turn out to be aggressive performance art which included taking the heads of hogs and impaling them on spikes "to shock the audience into resisting the forces of theocracy and patriarchy"
All the while Blackmore spurring the crowd on cited saying: "We are going to disrupt, distort, destroy. . . . We are going to storm press conferences, kidnap an executive, release snakes in the governor's mansion, execute the president."
Yeahhhhh. This didn't fly with Mesner and Jarry, as you would expect. Calling for violence, demonstrating violence against animals (even dead ones) just wasn't kosher and wasn't what TST was about and not only that, put the whole religion at risk of serious liability and federal investigation. Mesner contacted Blackmore when he heard about the performance and asked her step down and she did.
She believes she was dismissed unfairly and that the event was purely performance art and was supposed to mirror the Trump rallies. Which like, I personally get what she was trying to do, but it was in poor taste and I know if I were running an organization that's not how I would want to be represented.
This departure would begin an exodus of members and chapters from TST. Many claimed they had joined because of Blackmore and others said that TST needed to have more teeth. The chapters in Detroit, Portland, Oregon, LA, California and UK all split from the church, causing a schism and some forming another religious Satanic organization called the Global Order of Satan.
Another schism occurred forming the group HelLA in 2018.
Blackmore and many members that had departed would go on to give interviews or host podcasts where they would talk about their experience in TST and a common sentiment was a lack of diversity in TST and that it was "primarily ran by white men"
In this dissent discussions of NDAs that TST had their leaders sign and the fact that they were working with pro-bono lawyer Marc Randazza (who is most famous for representing neo-nazis and even InfoWars all in the name of free speech) clearly painted the entire organization was an alt right fascist paragon
Mesner was accused of being racist and hating Jews based on a 2002 podcast he had been a part of. It was one of those 24 hour marathon live podcast events hosted by Radio Satan to promote the Might is Right (a book on the Church of Satan), and Mesner had been an illustrator on the book so was invited to join the stream.
As you would expect the podcast is one of those intentionally offensive and edgelord-esque shows. At one point during the broadcast, the radio host, Bugbee makes some antisemitic comments. Mesner seems to try and use humor to shift the conversation, but then Bugbee's wife starts in on holocaust denial, interrupting Mesner.
So is Mesner antisemitic? It's hard to say, Mesner was in his mid twenties and this would be a decade before TST would form. Mesner has never liked being the center of attention, and that awkwardness can be seen in his early speeches on behalf of TST. The conversation as it occurred is distasteful at best, but a few throw away lines in a 24 hour podcast meant to offend? It's not a good look but it's not damning.
Note that these lines were found by members of SMART Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today, who listened and transcribed the entire 24 hour show, looking for stuff to use against Mesner and this was the worst they could find. But alongside Blackmore's claims it does give these lines new significance
Meanwhile, Billy Roper, white supremacist leader was condemning TST because they celebrated anarcho-communism, homosexuality and race mixing.
You see TST was hosting a rally in Arkansas around this time, so naturally, white supremacists and Thomas Robb, leader of the Knights of the KKK showed up to protest the rally. Mesner got on the podium and talked about the importance of separating church and state, and said
"I feel I have to comment on the comic relief of these flabby old men who fashion themselves the master race. They may not be fine physical specimens, but they're not fine intellectual specimens either. Nor were they able to rally a good counter rally. But I'm sure your mommies thought you were handsome little boys."
We have claims and counter claims, but where is the truth? James R Lewis conducted a series of online surveys on Satanists between 2000 and 2011 and from those surveys the grand majority of the satanist where white, heterosexual males
No such surveys have been done in TST, but there are indications that is membership has much higher rates of racial minorities, women and LGBTQ people than Satanists of eras past.
The author Joseph P. Laycock traveled to several chapters during his research and found that chapter demographics seemed to reflect demographics of the areas they were founded. In meetings in Austin and San Marcos, he encountered a sizable Latinx presence. When he asked Nelcitlaly, a leader from TST-West Florida who is a Latina born in Mexico and he asked if she had experienced any diversity problem and she said
"I'm really disappointed that that was a conversation we had to have, because there is no racism," adding, "I will be the number one person to call out the white-male-in-power-bullshit-thing."
The author found that meetings he attended were nearly 50/50 men and women and that more than 50% of chapter heads were female. TST draws a large number of LGBTQ members in part because of its many campaigns defending LGBTQ rights. Chapter heads of Albany and Chicago estimated at 75% of their congregation identifies as LGBTQ. People with disabilities make up a less studied area of diversity, but Donny, chapter head of TST-Springfield estimated that a quarter of his chapter had a disability, including a significant number of disabled veterans.
But no one disagreed that more diversity was a bad thing, but the question of how to encourage that is a tricky one. One hurdle is that many minorities already have their own communities, making an outside religion less attractive, particularly black and Latinx communities where Christianity tends to be a central pillar in those communities.
Several black interviewees pointed out that the subculture associated with satanism, especially heavy metal music, holds little appeal for most black people.
Steve Hill is a black comedian, activist, and political candidate as well as a former chapter head for TST-LA. He commented, "The aesthetic sort of pins you into a hole," but he felt there would be more black Satanists in the future, adding, "people think we don't exist."
Complaints about a diversity problem within TST really meant that the leadership seemed to be predominately white and male and that, as such, it could not understand the problems faced by minority members. TST's co-founders are white, heterosexual males. The council is more diverse, although its composition has shifted widely over the years. The council has never been entirely male and has been as high as two-thirds female, including one member who is a transgender woman. It has also never been entirely heterosexual, although at times it has been entirely white.
Increasing diversity in TST has two primary issues, 1 being tokenism, no one wants to be a token. 2, being a TST chapter head comes with a lot of stigma, one that may have a greater impact on those with less social privilege
The author spoke to chapter heads of TST-Chicago where they talked about how they had a member who was a black lesbian who was interested in the treasurer role and after they talked about it in depth, she decided she didn't want to take the role as her name appearing on TST financial documents could harm her career
But this doesn't mean TST is just resting on its laurels, a diversity committee has since been created and efforts towards a much more structured organization have begun. With each chapter running largely independently, it's very easy for work becoming imbalanced, with some volunteers overworking and the lack of structure means that the individual chapters have to work that much harder to make their own structure. This is something they're looking to fix, by providing training and additional structure that would allow for the individual chapters to be more self sufficient and lessen the burden on the local leadership.
Mesner, Jarry and their council continue to strive to make TST better for all and to continue the fight for equality
And the other groups? There has been no evidence of TST moving against or disparaging them. As Jarry says:
We are very open about respecting the rights of others to pursue whatever interpretation they believe in and we do not believe we have a monopoly on Satanism.
And Jon Winningham of TST-Houston stated:
"The more official Satanic organizations out there, the better."
The schisms weren't even unexpected. All the way back in 2013 Jarry and Mesner predicted such a thing was inevitable. What else is going to happen when you get together a bunch of people passionate about social justice and rebelling against the status quo and try to organize them?
The way they see it, it's a good thing. Getting upset means you understand the content and means that you care. And the more organizations out there fighting for social justice the better. And every departure and the negative feedback provided, was an opportunity for TST to reassess and work to better itself
Full Source List
- Speak of the Devil: How The Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion: https://academic.oup.com/book/33619
- Hail Satan! [documentary] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9358044/