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The attendees ran the sartorial gamut, from Brooklyn-casual (jeans, T-shirts) to full-on Gothic (black style face paint, piercings, Sisters of Mercy band T-shirts, pink mohawks).About half were former Christians from families of varying degrees of religious intensity, but many came from secular or agnostic backgrounds. (Turing identifies as a “Jew-Bu-Satanist,” the shorthand for Buddhist.) The group was racially mixed, with most members in their mid- to late 30s or early 40s.
Political activism on the part of churches is nothing new — from the anti-segregation work of many mainline Protestant communities during the civil rights movement to the anti-abortion efforts of many evangelical groups today.Such a no-nonsense approach is part of the core values of The Satanic Temple, which, despite its name, is an explicitly nontheistic, rationalistic religion.In other words, TST does not believe in a supernatural God a supernatural Satan.The group has also lobbied for “after-school Satan clubs” — secularist counterparts to Christian evangelical school organizations like the Good News Club, which are permitted in public schools.More recently, they’ve also developed a program to “troll” bakeries that refuse to serve LGBTQ couples (the subject of an ongoing Supreme Court case) by demanding that they make Satan-themed cakes.The group was founded in 2012 by two friends, Malcolm Jerry and Lucien Greaves (both pseudonyms).
Greaves serves as the organization’s public spokesperson.
A small room off the gallery, filled with newspaper clippings and other historic items, is devoted to the “Gray Faction,” a branch of The Satanic Temple that focuses on covering and dispelling hoaxes like those that caused the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s.
Back then, mass hysteria over imagined ritual Satanic abuse caused the closure of a number of child day care centers across the US despite the fact that no reports of abuse were ever substantiated.
(One of the church’s 11 tenets: “If a guest in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy.”) But TST, which organizers stress shares “no lineage” with La Vey’s Church of Satan, is a far more overtly political and left-wing entity.
It’s popular with those attracted to the symbolic nature of honoring the world’s most famous rebel, but uncomfortable with what they see as the Church of Satan’s regressive perspectives on gender and race (one TST member dismissed the group as nothing more than “alt-right neo-Nazis”). The largest single religious movement in America is that of the “nones,” or the religiously unaffiliated.
Despite the occult trappings, The Satanic Temple’s headquarters function just like any other museum or public organization in Salem, where thousands flock each year to mark the town’s storied history of witch trials during the late 17th century.