Tag Archives: Church of Satan

Church of Satan: ‘Craigslist Killer Not One of Us’

Church of Satan high priest Peter Gilmore has issued a statement to the press regarding Miranda Barbour’s claims that she belonged to a Satanic cult, making it clear that she has no affiliation with the church founded by Anton LaVey.

“According to our records, we have never had any contact from this woman, nor her accomplice … It seems to me that she is calling herself a member of a ‘satanic cult,’ not a legally incorporated above-ground form of satanism.”

“Thorough investigation will likely demonstrate that this cult story is fiction,” Gilmore added.

And Lucien Greaves, a spokesman for the New York-based Satanic Temple, expressed similar sentiments in statements this weekend:

“Barbour seems bent on displaying herself as prolific murderer and absolute monster, and her ‘Satanism’ seems nothing more than another transparent effort to aid in this campaign of reverse,” public relations, Greaves said.

“It must be remembered that ‘the Devil made me do it’ excuse far predates any written doctrine of Satanism, and I feel certain that Barbour’s own relationship with any organized Satanism will turn out to be vague or non-existent,” he added.

What’s even more remarkable than these public statements is that multiple mainstream news sites have published them — without irony or mockery. That rarely happens, and it’s a major step forward in recognizing Satanism as a legitimate and law-abiding faith that is unfairly linked to crimes like Barbour’s far too often. For example, check out this comment from CNN’s Belief blog co-editor, Daniel Burke:

Barbour’s alleged satanic ties may resurrect painful memories for Satanists, who found themselves at the center of controversy during the “satanic panic” of the 1980s. During that time, several American communities reported that Satanists had abused children during horrifying rituals. The accusations were later debunked, but only after what Satanists like Gilmore describe as a “witch hunt.”

Satanism still has a long way to go before it’s seen as an equal faith, but this isn’t a bad place to start.

Is stealing a VOTE SATAN sign a hate crime?

This isn’t the first time someone has backed Satan for public office. Photo by Flickr user futureatlas.com.

Rooting for Satan in the 2012 presidential election might be a long shot, but that’s no reason to take someone’s “VOTE SATAN” signs down.

A couple in Mountain View, Colorado, posted such a sign outside their home. Someone snatched it, and now the couple — Luigi and Angie Bellaviste — say they are the victims of a hate crime.

The Bellavistes, who are Satanists, told the local CBS affiliate that the theft was motivated by religious differences:

“I feel like we’re being treated unfairly because it’s not a so-called mainstream religion,” said Luigi.

“I know of many people who have the Virgin Mary and tons of Jesus memorabilia ‘I Love Jesus’ and what is the difference?” said Angie.

This situation raises a number of interesting questions: Do we know for sure that the person who took the sign down did so because they don’t like Satan or Satanists? It’s just as likely that this is random teen vandalism, or a someone who thought the sign was cool and wanted to keep it.

The folks at Mycrappyneighbor.com covered the incident, and even interviewed Peter Gilmore, High Priest of the Church of Satan. Here’s what he had to say about whether the theft constituted a hate crime:

“I think the idea of “hate crimes” brings an aspect of nebulousness to prosecution. How can one be certain as to the actual motivation for any crime, unless the criminal is honest to law enforcement about his emotional and conceptual state prior to or during a criminal act? We do not have mind reading technology. Lie detector tests are not accurate. Since “hate crime” statutes often increase the level of punishment for a crime, only the most foolish of criminals would state that hatred and bigotry was a motivation for their actions.”

“If the sign had said “Vote Allah” or “Vote Jesus” would its theft and vandalism be considered to be a “hate crime”? If so, then local officials should not be so quick to dismiss this just because they may not share the religious or philosophical convictions of those who are the victims in this situation.”

So, what does the hate-crime law in Colorado say?

“A person commits a bias-motivated crime if, with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation, he or she … knowingly causes damage to or destruction of the property of another person.”

Still, we’d need to know who tore down the sign, and why they did it, before we can say it’s a hate crime.

While looking through the city of Mountain View’s municipal code, I was also interested to find the following regulations regarding campaign signs on people’s property:

Temporary political signs of less than six (6) square feet in size may be located on the property no earlier than sixty (60) days before an election and no later than fifteen (15) days after the election.

If theirs was a legitimate campaign sign, then the Bellavides were out of bounds posting it in June — it’s still more than 60 days until the presidential election on Nov. 6.

Legislator: If prayer bill passes, “[Kids] could say whatever they want. That scares me.”

Opponents of a Florida bill say it would allow kids to deliver “Satanic messages” at school events. Photo by Flickr user allthecolor.

The prayer-in-schools debate has revived in Florida, where a bill that would allow students to deliver “inspirational messages” at school events has passed the house and senate and awaits the vote of Gov. Rick Scott.

According to the Washington Post, Scott “hasn’t promised to sign the bill, but he did say this: ‘I haven’t seen the bill, but I believe in Jesus Christ, and I believe individuals should have a right to say a prayer.'”

However, some have pointed out that the law would permit students to include “Satanic messages” in school alongside those of other faiths. One such detractor was Democratic Rep. Jeff Clemons, who read from the “Aryan Satanic Manifesto.” He then asked Rep. Charles Van Zant, who supports the law, if the passage was inspirational.

“That would be the students’ prerogative because of our constitutional freedom of speech,” Van Zant replied.

The Sunshine Sentinel stated:

While supporters are largely viewed as trying to open up a channel for school prayer, both sides in the debate agree it could also allow messages that include Holocaust denial, racially-charged speeches, uncomfortable beliefs of some fringe religions or endorsements of sex and drugs… If backers of the bill want students to be able to give Christian prayers as an inspirational message, they have to be prepared for Satanic, Muslim and other messages.

“They could say whatever they want,” said Rep. Marty Kiar. “That scares me.”

I’m not sure if this is genuine sentiment, or a last-ditch effort to make this bill fail. In either case, it comes down to a few things: One, some legislators are afraid of the beliefs and statements of people who follow Satanism and other religions they consider “fringe.” (By the way, it’s worth stating that Aryan Satanism is not the only kind — it’s not even the most popular kind.) Two, they’re willing to restrict the free-speech rights of citizens in order to quell this fear, just because the citizens in this case happen to be minors. And three, this is apparently their most potent argument against allowing “inspirational” religious messages in schools.

I’m not a proponent of prayer in school, but for once, I find myself siding with those who are.

What do you think? Would this bill allow Satanist kids to have their say? And would that be a bad thing?

Meet “America’s Favorite Satanist”

America’s Favorite Satanist from Vicki Marquette on Vimeo.

At this point, pretty much everyone has a picture in their head when they hear the word “Satanist.” That picture may come from any number of sources — popular (especially horror) films, novels, the nightly news, local scandals blamed on “Satanic cults,” or even personal contact with practicing Satanists. Some of our mental images might be more accurate, and warmer, than others.

Satanists are still a pretty small religious minority; there are no good numbers on how many there are, between the theistic Satanists, the Church of Satan members, Temple of Set folks, and other groups. That means many people have never met an actual Satanist. If they did, they might be surprised. Pleasantly surprised.

Take Joe Netherworld, featured above. Given his charisma and talents, as well as his willingness to self-publicize, he might not be the most typical Satanist. In some ways, he’s what you might expect, given our cultural stereotypes about Satanists: he likes to wear black and decorate his house with skulls and dark colors. But he’s also warm and personable, and a contributing member of his community. He transformed a much-hated neighborhood crackhouse in Poughkeepsie, New York, into a decorated mansion (and a favorite kid destination on Halloween). He looks out for his neighbors.

Take what one of his neighbors says about him, at the 9:40 mark:

“They’ll say, ‘Oh, who’s he? What’s going on over there? He’s weird.’ Let me tell you, I would put 20 of Joes on every single side of me. Put 20 of Joes around me, I’d be the happiest woman imaginable. I know we’re taken care of.”

This video also lets you get to know some slightly more traditional Satanists, Church of Satan Magus Peter Gilmore and his wife, Magistra Peggy Gilmore — also very down-to-Earth.

The best cure for prejudice and fear is knowledge, and getting to know people who belong to the group you’re uncomfortable with. How does Joe Netherworld change your understanding of what Satanists are like?

Is Satanism worse than child abuse?

After Lotts was arrested on child-abuse charges, why did his interest in Satanism seem more relevant than his sex-offender status?

Alleged criminal John Lotts, Jr., made news recently when he was arrested on charges of assaulting a 5-year-old Tennessee boy. According to police, the boy had “multiple injuries, including a laceration to the liver, and kidney contusions.” The boy’s mom was also arrested for failing to protect her son from the attack.

Gruesome enough, right?

Let’s look at the first sentence of the news article about Lotts’ arrest from the NewsChannel5.com site, based in Nashville:

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A self-confessed Satanist is behind bars charged with abusing a five-year-old boy. Detectives suspect it may have been part of a satanic ritual or torture.

The first sentence of any news article — called the lede — is written specifically to grab attention. The first thing reporter Nick Beres mentions is the alleged Satanism angle, even before he gets to the child abuse. The latter should be attention-grabbing enough, right? So why does it play second fiddle to a piece of personal information?

The rest of the story is a confusion of information: After Lotts was arrested, police questioned him. During questioning, he “produced a red card and declared himself a member of the Church of Satan.” While it’s true that CoS members sometimes carry red cards, it’s unclear why Lotts would mention this during the interview, particularly since he then had to disavow the police of the idea that his alleged assault had anything to do with his religious beliefs.

In fact, Lotts came right out and told the reporter that he “admitted to harming the child after losing his temper, but said his Satanism had nothing to do with what happened.” And, to be fair, the reporter looked at the Church of Satan web site and commented that “the web site also clearly states that it is wrong to harm little children.”

However, Beres waits until the very last sentence to mention perhaps the most pertinent piece of information about this man charged with violence against children: he is a convicted sex offender in the state of Tennessee.

Let’s revisit that lede again. Wouldn’t this be just as compelling?

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A convicted sex offender is behind bars charged with abusing a five-year-old boy.

You’d read that, right?

And it wouldn’t give you the mistaken impression that Satanism had anything to do with the crime.

If Lotts had revealed to police that he was a CostCo member, or held a library card, they wouldn’t immediately leap to the conclusion that those memberships had anything to do with the abuse of a child. Waving around a red Church of Satan card shouldn’t be any different. The only reason it did is because the police in this instance — and in many instances — are so ill-informed about the actual practices of Satanists and other minority faiths.

A glimpse behind the Satanic curtain

A new study digs deep into end-of-life practices by one of the world’s most misunderstood religions: Satanism. Photo of Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore by Flickr user David Shankbone.

Religious groups offer endless opportunities to examine human nature through beliefs and practices. Cimminnee Holt, a graduate student from Concordia University’s Department of Religion, is preparing a lengthy study for her doctor dissertation. Her focus? Satanists and how they live their daily lives.

Holt has released some of that research in a new journal article, “Death and Dying in the Satanic Worldview,” (PDF) which busts plenty of myths about Satanism and its adherents. For starters, she points out that Satanism is “an atheistic yet highly dogmatic New Religious Movement, which incorporates theatrical ritual as part of its practice. Despite its atheistic stance, the Church of Satan (CoS) has a distinct notion of a nonspiritual afterlife.”

Given that most people picture Satanists as people who worship, well, Satan — Holt is already turning the tables. In the course of her paper, she interviews two Church of Satan leaders; check out a summary here. She gets both men to open up about how they might like to be buried, and what they believe about the afterlife. In short, they don’t think there is a Heaven or Hell, but they do think that one’s actions live on after one dies. In other words, your work and legacy is your afterlife.

One leader said:

“The memory of the Reverend JR’s father is an example of Satanic afterlife; it was the father’s life that is important, not his death, and the imprint of that life on his loved ones creates a posthumous legacy.”

Holt’s paper is receiving plenty of public attention from the press, including the above CNN piece and another from the Montreal Gazette, which looks more broadly at the myths and realities of Satanism:

Characteristics of Satan that appeal to followers of the church, Holt says, include the idea that he is an adversary to other religions. As well, she adds that Satanists see merit in so-called sins such a greed and lust.

“Greed allows you to be successful in life,” she says. “If you want nice things, you have to work for them and you have to get money. If you’re a lustful person, and it’s one of the joys of life, then — with consent, certainly always with consent — if you desire, you should be pursuing.”

So, if Satanists don’t actually believe in Satan, what do they believe in? Well, for one, they believe in the empowerment and responsibility of people as individuals, Holt says.

“That means that you are the prime person responsible for actions in your life. You can’t blame the universe, God or devil for things that happen to you.”

Such a scholarly look at real-life Satanists will hopefully bring more real information about this misunderstood religion into the light, both for the general public and for the press. On their own, Satanists have not worked hard to clear up the public’s misconceptions of them. It’s time someone else took up the cause.

For more background on the Church of Satan and its beliefs, check out this interview with Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore.

What have you learned about Satanism that most surprised you? Share your thoughts in comments.

Reporters consumed by “vampire” case

Evan Francis Brown, a 20-year-old from Gadsden, Alabama, is accused of branding a 17-year-old with a “V.” For “vampire.”

Newspaper readers (and journalists) are perennially intrigued by the extremes of human behavior. That’s one way to explain how Evan Francis Brown caught the eye of several Alabama-area reporters. Last October, Brown allegedly tied up a 17-year-old boy and burned a “V” into his forehead with a heated kitchen utensil. Police arrested Brown, who apparently told them that he is a vampire, goes by the name “Vamp,” and considers himself a Satanist. Brown’s case heads to an Alabama Grand Jury in March.

In almost any other instance, a second-degree assault case would not make the local papers, let alone the national news. But American audiences seem to like a little “oddball story,” something that makes them raise their eyebrows or shake their heads. All Brown had to do was say the magic words: “vampire” and “Satanism.” That got him the headlines.

Of course, nobody seriously believes Brown is a vampire. However, to judge by some comments, people do think his actions are the fault of popular vampire fiction, particularly Twilight. (Kudos to the one person who pointed out the millions of other Twilight fans who do not assault people.) Typically it takes more than gazing upon the twinkly form of Edward Cullen to make someone burn a “V” into another person’s skin. What it takes is a history of mental imbalance — a prospect curiously overlooked by much of the reporting, so far.

More distressingly, reporters are playing up the Satanist angle. Maybe they aren’t aware that violence against others goes against the Church of Satan’s ideals:

What is truly dangerous, what allows people to murder innocents, what some people have labeled “evil” is actually an extreme self-righteousness. Not self-interest or self-gratification, as Satanism advocates. Those who give themselves permission to hurt others have to be able to feel they’re justified, anointed in their feelings of “I deserve this,” “I’ve been deprived,” or “I’ve been hurt.” A deep lack of empathy, a short-sightedness and an intense self-righteousness—that’s where those empty eyes come from. Our society cannot afford avenues for that kind of mass self-delusion anymore. It’s against the very basics of Satanism to allow yourself to feel that kind of self-righteous indignation.

This is another case in which Satanists are painted with a criminal brush, just because one criminal claims he is a Satanist. Remember, this is someone who also says he is a vampire. Arguably, he doesn’t know what he is. Journalists should consider being more thoughtful about which of his statements should be reported as facts in their articles. Brown, more likely, is someone who is struggling with mental-health issues. Parading him around as the freak of the week is not likely to help him in any way, nor anyone else struggling with violent urges.

Culturally, I find it interesting that so many people who decry the popularity of vampire fiction would take the time to read — let alone comment on — a newspaper article that essentially is a form of vampire fiction. Clearly these stories have a hold on us. That’s fine, but they need to be reported in a more responsible way, if they’re going to be reported at all.

Have you ever known anyone who claimed to be a vampire or other fantasy figure? Did you take them seriously? Share your stories in the comments.