They were there for us when the Westboro Baptist Church blamed “fags” for the Boston Marathon Bombing. They were there for us when we were forced to hide in the closet. And they’re here for us now that businesses are fighting for the right to discriminate.
You may think of the devil and demonic rituals when you think of Satanism, but the Satanic Temple isn’t like their Church of Satan brethren. Instead of believing in superstition and the idea of a literal supernatural Satan, the temple is a religious movement organization which started from humble means and grew into a community pushing for civil rights.
“When it began, we didn't have the audacity to think we could start a religious movement organization like we have now,” Co-Founder Lucien Greaves told SFGN. “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.”
Since forming in 2013 the temple pushes LGBT rights, abortion rights and more, in the name of “practical common sense and justice,” according to their website.
In terms of LGBT activism, it just makes sense for the temple — according to Greaves, many of their members are a part of the LGBT community.
“I think there's some obvious reasons for that and the primary reason being we don't make any distinction and we don't need any apology or explanation for anybody's orientation,” he said. They do not categorize people in the LGBT community separately — they are Satanists just like the rest of the temple members. “There's not some sort of condescending policy of toleration. It’s just part of the ambiance of The Satanic Temple’s culture.”
Greaves isn’t LGBT himself, “But I'm very sympathetic. It's just not who I am orientation-wise, but it makes no difference to me when fighting for people’s rights.”
Lucien Greaves with fellow members of The Satanic Temple.
Let There Be Cake
In December, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a 2012 discrimination case to determine whether it’s okay to deny service to gay couples on grounds of religious beliefs.
Naturally, The Satanic Temple decided to help couples get their cake — in the name of Satan.
“[This] was really inspired by the forthcoming Supreme Court case [Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission] and our realization that discrimination against the LGBTQ community will probably be upheld in the Supreme Court if they’re just looking at it in a cold legalistic manner, and refrain from redefining the current laws to add sexual orientation as a protected class,” Greaves said. “It's my feeling that they probably will ignore that question and just uphold discrimination given [Neil Gorsuch] and the Supreme Court now.”
Greaves views this discrimination as an “unjustified privilege” by “evangelical bigots” that wish to mark the LGBT community as second-class citizens that are prioritized over religion.
“Why should religion be privileged over orientation? Why should orientation render one a second-class citizen when people of a certain religious organization can walk around with impunity and not be discriminated against in a certain way?”
Whether or not they get takers on their cakes, Greaves believes the offer is more hypothetical than anything. “I imagine that when this ruling comes we’ll find more cases that are outside the context of the bakery and will have to be taken by a case-by-case basis. But we’ll see.”
More than anything, Greaves and the temple believe the situation raises important questions regarding protected classes. “Do we really want to be taking away protected class status from anybody and start living in a kind of new Jim Crow era? Or do we want to act as decent human beings and just serve people and run businesses properly? I don’t know why anyone would want to turn away business from their shops.”
Greaves raised another point — if businesses have the right to discriminate, shouldn’t they have to advertise this openly? The same-sex couple in the Supreme Court case had to go into the bakery only to realize they were refused service because of their orientation.
“But do we want to live in a world where we have those kinds of signs even out where people are openly flaunting discrimination in that way?” he asked. “I guess if they're practicing discrimination, it's better to know it up front. But it does seem like a real regression to put religious liberty ahead of decency.”
Lucien Greaves putting his penis on Catherine Idalette Johnston's grave.
Gravesite “Pink Mass” Counter-Protest
One of the temple’s biggest archenemies is The Westboro Baptist Church. Lucien Greaves and fellow co-founder Malcolm Jarry were in Boston during the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and saw that The Westboro Baptist Church blamed gay people for the massacre.
“Before they even knew who did the bombing, the funerals were taking place for the people who were killed, and the Westboro Baptist Church said that they were going to come and protest those funerals,” he said. “And the city was kind of at a breaking point. Everybody was kind of pissed off. The bombing happened and nobody knew who did it, and everybody was upset and now these fools were going to come and protest the funeral.”
A tweet by the WBC, which has since been removed as the account is suspended, said: “Westboro Baptist Church to picket funerals of those dead by Boston Bombs! GOD SENT THE BOMBS IN FURY OVER FAG MARRIAGE! #PraiseGod.”
As a result, Greaves said people staged many counter-protests waiting for the Westboro Baptist Church to show up.
But they never did. Instead, they took to Twitter to post pictures of themselves photoshopped holding signs stating “God Brought the Bombs” — which Greaves claimed was “idiotic.”
“They also tweeted, though, along with those pictures that they were so happy everybody showed up for them, and they were there in spirit. So we got to thinking about how we could be with them in spirit, meet them in kind. And that's when we decided to find the gravestone of the mother of Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and perform homoerotic rituals at her gravesite.”
Thus the Pink Mass was born. It took place at the gravesite of Catherine Idalette Johnston in Mississippi. Greaves stood over the grave while two gay men and two lesbians kissed to make Johnston “gay in the afterlife.” Greaves wore horned headgear, and put his penis on the grave.
This is what kicked off their association with the LGBT community.
“The Pink Mass was something that caused early attention and really gained a lot of support from the LGBTQ community who are often denigrated by traditional religions anyways, so it wasn't a very far leap, I don’t think, for a lot of people in that community.”
But the WBC didn’t just take it.
“They actually gave us the satisfaction of flying off the handle and making one of their famous flyers in our honor, denigrating us and accusing us of all manner of depraved deeds or whatever, other kind of senseless babble that turns homosexuality into the harbinger of the destruction of the world,” Greaves said. “But they seem to mainly exercise their evangelism on Twitter and so they did give us the satisfaction of throwing a little temper tantrum.”
Greaves raising a tall finger towards the Westboro Baptist Church while holding a rainbow flag.
Trans Dance Party
Shortly after the Pink Mass, Greaves and Satanic Temple members held a transgender dance party outside the Westboro Baptist Church building in an attempt to see if the church could take what they dish out.
“I just happened to be there. I was already speaking in Kansas City, so then we went to Topeka and decided to just maximize the fun with my time there and see if the Westboro Baptist Church would come out and have a discussion, being that they’ll so boldly go out of people's funerals.”
Surprisingly, the church didn’t leave their property to react.
“Apparently if you have a dance party outside their church, they’ll lock themselves in and call the police. I think they did. The police came by a couple of times, but I don't think the police ever liked them either.”
Trans dance party in front of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The Fight for LGBT Rights
Greaves and The Satanic Temple believe that LGBT rights will come naturally with a growing acceptance over time.
“[The biggest struggle for LGBT rights] is the same as any civil rights movement. It's a fight for public consciousness,” Greaves said.
He points to race as a protected class — it’s no different than religion as a protected class. Race as a protected class used to be a large issue, but now “you won't hear anybody arguing now that race shouldn't be a protected class.” He believes soon the LGBT community will have the same outcome.
“I think the more time goes on, and the more the rights revolution is accepted, and the more that people have to come to terms with the fact that there really is an LGBT community, and the more exposure people have to that, the more it will be a non issue. The more this urge to discriminate against this group of people will be seen for what it is: outright bigotry that really has nothing to do with religious values whatsoever.”
He added: “It's my hope that in another 20 years or hopefully less, the vast majority of people will not give a shit that people are a part of the LGBT community at all.”
SFGN reached out to the Westboro Baptist Church but did not receive a response.