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The Satanic Temple

Guest Article

Lawsuits, The Satanic Temple

May 28, 2024

How The Satanic Temple is just like the Catholic Church

Court filings reveal not only does TST pay to get positive news coverage to distract from the bad, it used the same PR guy the Church did — for exactly what you think

Background: The Satanic Temple started suing four former members of its Washington State chapter in April 2020, accusing us of, among other things, defamation. That was tossed out in February 2021, appealed, and eventually given up entirely in January 2024 when TST was given another chance on the condition they actually specified how they’d been defamed. Sucks to suck.

But in the middle of this, in October 2021, religion report Julia Duin wrote an article about the lawsuit up to that point. The article wasn’t perfect, but it was largely accurate.

Even so, in February 2022, The Satanic Temple sued Newsweek and Duin as an individual alongside the magazine. At present, the case has still not been finally decided.

Probably the funniest thing to happen out of the proceedings of The Satanic Temple’s SLAPP action against Newsweek has been the judge directly telling TST, in March 2023, that if they wanted to avoid it being reported that TST higher-ups have posed with alt-right figures, maybe don’t pose with alt-right figures.

…Or that’s what we would say if a friend of ours hadn’t caught something much, much funnier out of a more recent filing in the suit.

Out of the nearly two dozen defamation complaints that TST initially filed, only two issues actually remain.

The first one is, “Does TST count as a public figure when calculating their burden of proof for whether something is defamatory?” And the second question underlying that is, “Was it defamatory for Newsweek to quote an ex-member saying that he was aware of abuse being covered up in ways that were more than anecdotal?”

In their supporting arguments for summary judgment before the start of trial, TST included a declaration from Cevin Soling a.k.a. “Malcolm Jarry”. Soling is one of the two owners of TST and perennial enjoyer of deliberately filing false information on government records around the country such as claiming his name is “Malcolm Jarry” on legal documents.

Here, Soling said the Newsweek article caused general reputational damages, leading to people canceling their recurring donations to TST. He also complained about people reading the Newsweek article and then comparing TST unfavorably to the Catholic Church.

(It’s actually not even clear if this is true given that quite a few people outright dismiss anything negative the Temple does with, “Oh, you mean like the Catholic Church?”)

In response to the Newsweek article, Soling says, TST spent just over $43,000 on public relations crisis firms trying to bury the Newsweek article. Checking out the invoices in full, we can see that this apparently included sending puff pieces to the New York Times and other outlets for years.

Highlighted in green from the May 2023 invoice we see:

Which clearly is in regards to this New York Times article by Pam Belluck published June 28, 2023 — the following month.

Religious Freedom Arguments Underpin Wave of Challenges to Abortion Bans
In lawsuits challenging state abortion bans, lawyers for abortion rights plaintiffs are employing religious liberty arguments the Christian right has used for decades.

This is already pretty damning, and there are Satanic Temple supporters (though a lot less of them now) who would have refused to believe us if we’d said, “TST using your donation money to try to deflect bad PR about them.”

TST’s sycophants still skeptical of us may still say we don’t know that this donation money comes from donations. But another thing you’ll want to note about all these invoices is they bill to “The Satanic Temple”, full stop, or “TST”; they do not specify whether it’s for-profit “United Federation of Churches LLC d/b/a ‘The Satanic Temple’ ” or it’s tax-exempt church “The Satanic Temple, Inc.”, and we have gone to great pains in the past to show that that makes total sense when you remember that Cevin Soling and Doug Misicko a.k.a. “Lucien Greaves” own them both and use the same physical address for both (64 Bridge Street), and the two men have continuously treated all their corporate entities as interchangeable when questioned about it under oath for depositions.

In a separate case in Arkansas in January 2022, The Satanic Temple claimed through its lawyers that “The Satanic Temple”, full stop, no longer existed because “The Satanic Temple, Inc.” had just been misnamed.

We responded:
“The Satanic Temple” is not a discrete entity with tax returns. Intervenors thus have
no responsive documents. In the telephonic discovery hearing on March 11, the
Court directed Defendant to issue new discovery requests to the entities which the
State seeks tax returns.
Doc. 212-12 at 5 (April 10, 2020 supplement).

Secretary Thurston complains that this was evasive. Not so.

“The Satanic Temple” is an umbrella term for a religion which is given legal structure by a constellation of affiliate entities. There is no entity named “The Satanic Temple” anymore because the errantly named “The Satanic Temple” corrected its name to “The Satanic Temple, Inc.”
Cave v. Thurston, Response in Opposition to Motion — Document #217

But for billing purposes as well as many other purposes, it sure seems like “The Satanic Temple” is whatever Soling and Misicko want it to be long after 2022.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you say. “But the article title and URL were promising something about the Catholic Church. When are you planning to get to that?”

Straight away. Because TST included all the invoices for that quantity, so now the entire world knows that of that $43,350, Cevin spent more than half of it ($25,000) retaining the services of a very specific PR firm — Levick Strategic Communications.

Exhibit Invoice no. 7204 (June 15, 2022) — Document #106, Attachment #1

Why does this stand out? Because in the early Aughts, Levick was also retained for PR crisis management…by the Catholic Church, who was in the midst of paying out at least $200 million in settlements to abuse victims in dioceses around the country.

Levick wrote this piece in 2018 under the Forbes online brand.

He has since died (rip bozo), and The Washington Post of course used an interesting euphemism for his public obituary: “troubled clients of all sorts”.

Richard Levick, crisis communications specialist, dies at 65
His firm specializes in generating media coverage that casts troubled clients of all sorts in a more favorable light

This was a man who got paid very well to represent the worst of the worst, and The Satanic Temple paid him very well to represent them.

We don’t know, Cevin. Maybe if you really cared about your religion not being compared to the Catholic Church for how badly it handles sexual abuse, your first response wouldn’t have been to hide behind the PR firm that literally ran interference for the Catholic Church and took a lot of time and money to paint the priests as victims themselves, to try to dilute the public perception of them as active perpetrators of industrialized pedophilia.

And yet: Cevin can’t even say he got his money’s worth, because TST also put it into this court record that they’ve been aware of several incidents and allegations of sexual misconduct over the last decade, but somehow had no formal way of investigating them until 2020, and occasionally proactively chose not to investigate some of them sooner.

Moreover, TST’s (former) Director of Ministry Greg Stevens was also deposed for this lawsuit, and he corroborated that a member in Austin reported being sexually assaulted by her chapter head, and that ultimately she and her friends were kicked out for raising the issue repeatedly at chapter meetings afterward.

TST hoped that the fact the perpetrator had stepped down and left, and that there was a police investigation ongoing, would be the end of the discussion — but the victim and her friends kept reminding the chapter that it was something that happened at all, that maybe there should be a more substantive response inside their religious community than just “play ignorant and let the police do their thing.”

And so they were removed for, in the words of Greg Stevens speaking under oath, “just constantly turning attention to themselves and … [making] it impossible for them [the Austin Congregation] to have meetings.”

So to recap, The Satanic Temple is structured in such a way that:

  • it kicked out a sexual assault victim and her allies for not having the decency to shut up about it
  • spent $43K trying to bury an article from Newsweek’s content mill that didn’t even mention it directly, most of which was spent on tagging in “Pedo Defenders ‘R Us”
  • and then filed an dipshit SLAPP suit where discovery made it almost inevitable that it would come up in a way that no PR firm can hold back.

So in one way it’s funny: TST spends an incredible amount of effort pretending that it doesn’t have a history, doesn’t have a revolving door of people it’s burnt through and hurt over the last decade. And yet, because Doug and Cevin are as incompetent as they are malicious, so much of their work in maintaining that façade involves setting out rakes and then stepping on them repeatedly where everyone can tell that’s exactly what’s happening and where there is no choice but to reconcile with that history. However terrified that TST loyalists are of the “QueerSatanic” boogeyman, they have much better reason to be afraid of the fucking Streisand effect.

But it’s also not funny, because however stupid that is, it keeps working. TST’s reputation is a boom-bust cycle built up by puff pieces written by credulous “skeptics” and clickbait journos, and then deflated by schisms and mass purges that none of those writers are interested in writing about afterwards.

The concept of the Temple being good for exciting reasons is in direct conflict with the reality that it is actually very bad for very boring reasons.

This manufactured ignorance and sleight of hand may not work forever, it may not even keep working in the near future — but for as long as it does, The Satanic Temple remains a threat to the wellbeing and the earnest pursuit of justice of people everywhere, and especially the people who call themselves its members.

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