The Satanic Temple continues its fight for religious liberty on multiple fronts

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The Satanic Temple (TST), based in Salem, is well known for its ongoing actions to enforce religious freedom laws and regulations. As is explained on its site, TST is “a religious organization with deeply held beliefs that engages in political activism in the realm of separation of church and state.” That mission has earned them multiple headlines since September, with several coming to a head only in past last two weeks.

Baphomet tree topper stolen

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Baphomet-head tree topper found on the the Satantic Temple’s (TST) holiday display at San Jose’s Christmas in the park was stolen in late November. The local chapter of TST had been given a spot in the city’s annual event to erect its own tree among the many others. The chapter held a ornament-making party and proudly placed the tree on schedule.

Christmas in the Park is a public event that is held every year since the 1950s, and community groups, businesses, and nonprofits placed their decorated holiday trees around the Plaza de Cesar Chavez for visitors to enjoy. On a designated date, the city holds a special tree lighting ceremony.

This year’s lighting ceremony was held on Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving. The park boasted 600 trees, breaking the world record for the number of trees illuminated in one place.

Among those trees was the one created by the Satantic Temple of San Jose, complete with its tree topper depicting Baphomet’s head. The tree immediately received backlash with one woman telling local news that it was “inappropriate for children.” Another woman echoed that sentiment on TST’s Facebook page:  “I understand that’s your religion, but why would someone want a creepy scary face to see/stare at downtown where children and babies get scared directly.”


A few days after the ceremony, the head disappeared. On Nov. 28, spokesperson Sadie Satanas thanked the city for including the temple for the first time. In a statement, she said:

Members of the Satanic Temple- San Jose Chapter wished to be represented in our local community this holiday season. In the spirit of pluralism and with the intention of strengthening our community ties, we reached out to Christmas in the Park and secured a holiday tree for 2017. We anticipated the possibility of vandalism and/or theft, and while have no desire to encourage such poor behavior, decided a proper representation of our religion was worth the risk and used a beautiful hand crafted Baphomet mask as our tree topper….

Understanding that this theft does not represent our community as a whole, TST-San Jose would like to move past this incident and continue to participate in the holiday festivities as part of the local community we value and love. We will be replacing our tree topper as we can, and hope you all enjoy our tree. 

A $35K lawsuit in Minnesota

BELLE PLAINE, Minn. – The Satanic Temple is seeking legal council in the state of Minnesota in order to sue the city of Belle Plaine for removing a local park’s free-speech zone.

In 2016, the Belle Plaine city council allowed the placement of a two-foot-high veterans memorial sculpture entitled “Joe,” which depicted a soldier kneeling before a cross-shaped headstone. After threat of lawsuit, the statue was removed in January, 2017.

Then in February, the city opted to created a free-speech zone and placed the statue back. The Satanic Temple applied to place its own veteran memorial, and was quickly approved. At the time, TST spokesperson Lucien Greaves said that city officials didn’t “offer any resistance, to their credit.” The monument was designed, approved and eventually constructed, and it bore the phrase: “In honor of the Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its constitution.”

Once erected, it would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Rendering of TST monument [courtesy].

However, as word got out that TST would be erected a monument in the park, protests began. The city was flooded with emails and letters opposing the monument. In July, the Catholic nonprofit America Needs Fatima organized a protest. On that day, there was a standoff with veterans groups coming out supporting the TST placement, as we previously reported.

Then, on July 17, the city opted to shut down the free speech area. In a statement the council wrote, that it would “rescind [the] resolution enacted in February, 2017, that allowed individuals or organizations to place and maintain privately-owned displays in a designated space of the city-owned Veterans Memorial Park.”

At the time, TST spokesperson Adam Nagel said, “Funny how Christians and conservatives tout themselves as champions of the constitution, yet have such a hard time with free speech and separation of church and state.”

However, in the time since, the temple has decided to pursue legal action against the city. TST is suing for $35,000 in grievances, which equates to the cost to construct the monument. Greaves told local media, “We’re going to have a very difficult time finding another use for this.” Special design elements were made to accommodate city council specifications. Greaves said, “It’s all at our loss.” The city has rejected TST’s claim that the council broke contract.

TST is reportedly going to pursue the lawsuit.

Satanic wedding cakes

WASHINGTON — The Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves reportedly said in September that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the baker, the temple will request a cake for a Satanic wedding. In a tweet at the time, Greaves said, “Did you know: bakers can’t refuse service to The Satanic Temple because religion is a ‘protected class?'”

The organization and Greaves posted the following photo of a design on social media.

[TST Instagram feed.]

A TST statement reads:

The laws of the United States require that no one may discriminate by way of refusal of service against an evangelical theocrat for their religious beliefs, but the evangelical theocrat may discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are.

Because religion is a protected class, a baker may refuse service to LGBTQ people, but they may not refuse service based upon someone’s religion. If they aren’t willing to make a cake for same-sex unions, let’s have them make a cake to honor Satan instead.

The Satanic Temple proclaims that if the right to discriminate against the LGBTQ community is codified into law by the Supreme Court, aggrieved parties who face discrimination should contact them.

Greaves said, “If you can’t get a cake for your same-sex union we’ll host a party in your honor at the Satanic Temple headquarters in Salem and order a cake that praises Satan from your offending discriminatory ‘religious liberty’ enthusiast.”

Since these statements were made in September, opponents have been using the words “troll” and “trolling.” Whether or not the temple will be put in the position to follow through will be seen next year. The SCOTUS case was heard Dec. 5 with an outcome expected in July, 2018.

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While the Satanic Temple is largely not considered a Pagan organization, some of its members may identify as such. Regardless of the religious or non-religious leanings of the temple itself or of its individual members, TST’s actions are aggressively in support of religious liberty and the protections of free speech in public space. The organization is a strong proponent of the absolute separation of church and state, and most of its actions and activities focus on holding government accountable to that ideal. Their successes benefit more than just their own members.

In 2014, we explored how Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities can benefit and even learn from TST’s work. We spoke to both Greaves and several Pagan activists. At the time said, T. Thorn Coyle said, “The Satanic Temple is approaching the public square head on, with no apologies. I appreciate that … The Satanic Temple are unapologetically themselves and move ahead by assuming they already have the same civil rights as other religions. In approaching the public sphere in this way, they serve to highlight where the real cracks in the wall of “separation of church and state” are. The Satanic Temple, by acting forthrightly, are taking a hammer and chisel to those cracks. For this, I applaud them.”

Other recent actions to follow: