Post link 20 April 2016, 17:52
Robert Eggers' period horror film “The Witch” has been one of the surprise hits of 2016. It’s even gained a second wind since its February 23 release: the first weekend of April it played on 666 screens around the country, raking in an additional USD$465,000.

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In this Jan. 24, 2015 file photo, Chris Bridges holds a sign for The Satanic Temple during a protest outside of an all-day prayer rally headlined by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in Baton Rouge.


Joseph P. Laycock, The Conversation april 20, 2016 uk.businessinsider.com

The tale of a Puritan family turning on each other as they attempt to root out the supernatural evil plaguing their farm, the film won Eggers the award for best director at Sundance – and even frightened horror master Stephen King.

But neither of these accolades has generated as much buzz as an endorsement from The Satanic Temple (TST), a satanic political movement that first appeared in 2013.

In December, TST and A24 studios began collaborating on a four-city tour called The Sabbat Cycle, which consisted of screenings of the film followed by politically driven satanic rituals. The stated goal of The Sabbat Cycle was to inspire a “satanic revolution.”

TST believes that the separation of church and state is currently under attack by radical religious conservatives. They also believe there is a silent majority that opposes this agenda, but remains too apathetic to do anything about it.

The Sabbat Cycle was an attempt to raise political awareness by piggybacking on “The Witch”’s appeal. This is part of larger PR model the group has used since its inception, in which the shocking and the frightening are used to lure media attention to their cause.

As a religion scholar, I find TST fascinating. Not only do their campaigns raise serious questions about the First Amendment and religious pluralism, they also challenge the public to think about what counts as a “religion.”

To learn more, I attended the Sabbat Cycle at its Austin stop, and spoke with attendees about their religious and political views.

Political movement, religion or both?

Since its founding, TST has waged a highly active campaign to demand greater separation between church and state, and to challenge the privileged relationship Christianity has with government.

Promoting Satanism in movies


A cornerstone of their campaign has been tongue-in-cheek “stunts” intended to show how government institutions favor Christianity in ways that would never be tolerated for other religions.

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The goat in the movie Witch

An angel ripped from a Satanic Temple display at the Florida Capitol sits on a table, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. A woman damaged the Satanic display a day after an atheist group put it up as a counter to a nativity scene that was set up by a Christian group.

http://www.mastakongo.com/news/images/Articles_photo/2016/April/John_Roddam_Spencer_Stanhope-The_Temptation_of_Eve.jpgTST first made headlines in 2013, when it held a rally in Florida, ostensibly to congratulate Governor Rick Scott for passing a bill that would allow students to read “inspirational messages of their choosing” at assemblies and sporting events.

While Scott probably envisioned the law permitting Christian students to offer public prayers and Bible readings, it could not, constitutionally, specify what sort of “inspirational messages” were allowed – including satanic messages. And so the rally featured a sign declaring, “Hail Satan! Hail Rick Scott!”

Whether or not TST is a “real” religion has been a subject of debate. But some members insist that while the movement is atheistic, the group, like other religions, has a shared set of values, concerns and symbols (like Satan as a symbol of rebellion).

Religion or not, no one can question TST’s appeal or its sincerity about its political goals.

Today TST has 17 chapters in the United States and Europe and claims an estimated 100,000 members – a figure based on the purchase of membership cards and various forms of online support.

Masters of media attention

http://www.mastakongo.com/news/images/Articles_photo/2016/April/the-satanic-temple1.jpgTST chapters across the country have launched campaigns demanding the same religious rights and privileges afforded to Christianity.

These have included the creation of satanic coloring books for distribution in schools in Florida and Colorado; bids to erect satanic “nativity scenes” on government property in Florida, Michigan and Indiana; offering prayers to Satan at a high school football game in Seattle; and demanding that a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma State Capitol be accompanied by a monument to Baphomet (a goat-headed idol associated with witches' sabbaths).

The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) reinforced the religious freedoms outlined in the First Amendment. When the Supreme Court ruled that RFRA applied only to the federal government and could not be applied to the states, many states passed their own versions of RFRA. Several of TST’s campaigns involve using RFRA laws to claim religious accommodations for satanists.

For example, since 2014 TST has invoked state RFRA laws in Michigan and Missouri to demand a religious exemption from laws dictating that those who seek an abortion need to review literature or endure a waiting period.

In January, TST’s Tucson chapter demanded that the Phoenix City Council include them in public prayers offered before their council meetings. The council responded with a new rule that only chaplains from the police and fire departments may offer the prayers before meetings. (TST has threatened to sue.)

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Satanic temple spokeperson jex blackmore

Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman has argued that James Madison would have supported the Tucson satanists. Madison was concerned that individual rights could be threatened by a “tyranny of the majority,” and saw laws guaranteeing individual rights as “paper barriers” that offered no real protection. Only a diverse coalition of minorities could effectively check a majority and protect individual freedom.

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