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The Satanic Temple

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The New Heretics

May 24, 2024

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1. [INFORMED DISSENT] The Satanic Temple, Inc v. the City of Chicago

Chicago invocation trial schedule set

This is one of the lesser-known lawsuits The Satanic Temple is pursuing, another invocation challenge after their failed Scottsdale and (so far) failed Boston lawsuits.

This one began in May 2023, and has got a little legitimate coverage.

 Satanists Sue Chicago For Not Allowing Them To Say ‘Hail Satan’ At City Council Meetings
Minster of Satan Adam Vavrick said his request has been stuck in purgatory, which “left me with no choice but to file suit.”
BookClubChicago.org: The lawsuit says the city violated the religious group’s First Amendment rights by “excluding disfavored minority faiths” from giving an invocation at the start of City Council meetings. Adam Vavrick (right). Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago, Provided

Two things speak in this lawsuit’s favor more so than the Temple’s recent track record.

The first is that the primary attorney on The Satanic Temple’s side is one Adele D. Nicholas, a local a civil rights lawyer and the executive director of Illinois Voices for Reform. That’s actually a big deal because TST’s usual legal stable is incredibly incompetent.

The second is that one of the 50 aldermans of the city council did that thing where you put into writing something you’d rather not have read back to you in court.

Again from Book Club Chicago:

The Federal district judge apparently felt this way, too, as the Hon. Joan H. Lefkow let the case proceed in March 2024, ruling to not fully dismiss the case at this preliminary stage.

Before the court are plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction and the City’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Dkts. 7, 11.)
For the reasons explained below, the motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and the motion for preliminary injunction is denied.

Memorandum Opinion and Order AND Order on Motion for Preliminary Injunction AND Order on Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim — Document #25

Some selections from that opinion:

This judge is not a fan of the current supreme court, and there’s a lot of that.

But it goes toward yet another example of generous court readings for TST’s benefit, bending over backward to be fair to them.

The update this week was just that we have some idea of what the timeline looks like for the case based on the deadlines the judge gave for each portion of pre-trial labor.

So if everything goes according to schedule, this case will be heard no earlier than spring 2025. But this is very provisional and court deadlines move backwards, not forwards.

And again, The Satanic Temple seems to have somehow — somehow! — landed some competent representation here. TST’s primary lawyer Matthew Kezhaya is sanctionably combative in malicious and incompetent ways that seem to make it harder for the Temple to get wins in the first place. If you act like a dick and make the Defendant and its lawyers hate you even beyond the lawsuit itself, a favorable settlement seems less likely. Maybe Adele Nicholas won’t do that and city will say it’s cheaper and easier to let TST go ahead with their invocation than stop them.

But it does seem like every city has some interest and not being forced to let any self-described religion take over part of their meeting. Given TST’s usual burn-through rate and the ongoing major schism centered on TST Ministry, it will also be interesting to see if “Minister of Satan Adam Vavrick” is even still associated with TST and ordained by the time 2025 rolls around.

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2. [WE LIVE IN HELL] Iowa vandalism case conclusion

Michael Patrick Cassidy sentenced to probation in guilty plea

We have already covered this fairly extensively since December 2023, especially in our May 3 recap.

Michael Patrick Cassidy, a failed, reactionary Mississippi election candidate went up to Iowa specifically to vandalize TST Iowa’s “nativity” piece, a small Baphomet display.

Satanic Temple of Iowa display at the Iowa State Capitol (Nixson Benítez / The Register)

For this, Cassidy had what would have been relatively minor vandalism charges elevated to a felony due to prosecutors utilizing a hate crime statue: Cassidy had targeted Satanists for their religion.

Cassidy’s lawyers pushed back on this, claiming in pre-trial motions, “A corporation likewise cannot practice a religion. It could never be said, save in Wonderland, that Best Buy is Buddhist. Neither can an LLC know skin color, ancestry, or a disability.”

But this failed, and going into this week, the judge was going to let the hate crime charges be dealt with in the trial itself in June.

The local TV news station WLBT did a pretty excellent write-up ahead of the expected trial, recapping what had happened as well as the fact that Cassidy might spend five years of his life in state prison.

Instead, on May 24, Cassidy took a plea deal that dropped the hate crime add on.

On May 28, the judge indeed accepted the deal, finalizing it.

This was, by our reading, genuinely surprising for a number of reasons.

First was that, as the TV news story made clear, Cassidy apparently did what he did with a lot of forethought and to great (quantifiable) success.

And that’s in addition to Cassidy’s sudden rise to national prominence, at least among Christian Nationalists and the rest of the far right.

Michael Cassidy, along with his lawyer, Davis Younts, speaks to Jesse Watters the day after destroying a Satanic statue in the Iowa State Capitol. (Source: FOX News Channel’s Jesse Watters Primetime via WLBT)

Unlike some other attacks planned or executed upon The Satanic Temple, Cassidy seemed to be in full possession of his mental faculties, and even if sincere, capable of a level of cynicism about how to turn this act of protest into a secure place on the right-wing grift circuit.

Because had he gone through with the trial, look at Cassidy’s options.

Best case scenario for him, he is acquitted by a jury of his peers who find out lots of uncomfortable things about The Satanic Temple’s origin, how its tangled web of incorporated entities actually interact, and the weird shit the religion’s literal owners get up to and have gotten up to. It’s Des Moines, but it’s still Iowa. It’s possible the case would have just affirmed that it’s open season on Satanists everywhere in the USA.

What about a worse scenario: Cassidy is convicted but the jury rejects the hate crime aspect and only convicts on misdemeanor fourth-degree criminal mischief, serving up to a year in county jail? That would be an unpleasant year, to be sure, but Cassidy would undoubtedly come out of it a martyr and a hero. He would be able to live off of that forever.

Even Cassidy’s worst case scenario, actually getting sentenced to five years in state prison, starts to look a lot brighter when you think about the sort of celebrity he would become as a result. With the Republican Party in the ultra-reactionary mood it’s in now, you mean to tell us Gov. Kim Reynolds or someone primarying her from the right wouldn’t leap at the chance to be the one to pardon Cassidy?

There were lots of ways this could have gone very badly, and TST as a victim is particularly dangerous for a case like this because it has so many lies and so much baggage that tend to come out in trials.

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3. [PERMANENT SHITTENING] Ongoing recap of TST’s 2024 schism

“Memegate” continues to roil Satanic Temple

Satanic Temple co-owner, co-founder, and national spokesperson Doug “Lucien Greaves” Misicko is very sure that all of the problems in the Temple are everyone else but him, and on May 10, he said that if you disagree with that, you should “get the fuck out of TST”.

Since then, a lot of people have taken him up in that offer.

We’ve continued to add to our recap article from last week into the present week.

It is, to put it mildly, very tough to keep up with all of this.

One thing that came up on the stream itself was our rooting interest in more of these local groups and key figures breaking away from Salem to stop providing the national TST brand with so much free labor, creative works, and money the owners Doug Misicko and Cevin Soling literally consider to be their property to do with what they want with no accountability or reciprocity owed to everyone else in the organization.

However, a lot of these breakaway groups might not necessary be improvements on The Satanic Temple’s model so much as TST in miniature. In the same way that the “small business owner” is not in practice at all superior to be a worker for than a giant corporation, having a bunch of local hierarchies with unaccountable leadership and no way to see or direct their finances is not desirable, either.

In addition, running a healthy local group without the constant stream of enthusiastic new people to burn through and discard as TST does is something that’s worth it, but it takes an entirely different set of skills and mode of operation. Most breakaway satanic groups that have ever gone their own way from TST have withered and died in three or four years. That may actually be for the best; voluntary collectives can for the best of reasons, have members who drift apart and no longer have good reason to freely associate. But, it is something all these new groups need to consider and address.

Finally, as great as it is to see so many individual members of TST find their principles and stand up to the authoritarian structure of “the Executive Committee” (Misicko and Soling, plus their agents), it sure is something that all of these people who delighted in TST weaponizing litigation against former members and engaged in enthusiastic apologia for the fascism, lack of financial transparency weird romantic/sexual relationships one co-owner reportedly keeps having with much younger, lower-ranking members, etc., etc., the last straw for you was getting called an “Internal Nobody”? That was what it took, if you weren’t just locked out of your account and booted outright?

There is no reason to feel sorry for the sorts of people who brag about having been through multiple “shittenings” — their term for the 2018 TST schism that’s been applied to subsequent local revolts and critics (“shitteners”). These recent ex-TSTers put up with unconscionable things for years, and they not only knew about them, they actively worked to facilitate them and convince others not to care.

It’s better to jump off now than stay with it, but no one should have any tears for such people, and no one should trust them until they, at a minimum, engage in years of reparation for what they’ve done.

Because it’s highly unlikely whatever is happening now is actually “the end” of TST.

As the next section details, The Satanic Temple literally pays for positive mainstream media press, and they use right-wing press as a catalyst for “negative-partisanship” support, and the skeptic community is on their side pretending “I do not see it” with every single red flag.

We do not see how anything meaningful changes for TST and its outlook from this schism until that media dynamic changes.

That is, TST will keep getting funneled in new well-meaning people who will be exploited, burnt out, and kicked to the curb and only sycophants will remain until they’re useless or grow the modicum of a spine and it’s their turn to have done to them what they did to others.

So long as the media landscape is what is and allows itself to be exploited as it has for more than a decade now, no one should think “this time, they’re finished”. The Satanic Temple doesn’t have to be competent or effective; they have money, and money buys things competence and efficiency never could.

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4. [INFORMED DISSENT] The Satanic Temple Inc. v. Newsweek Magazine LLC

Dueling summary judgment motions reveal TST used same PR firm as Catholic Church

This is a fun one, huh?

There is not much more to say here except what an absolutely dereliction of duty by the skeptic media that continues to ignore all of these issues that The Satanic Temple is now admitting to in open court, and usually goes further to actually push TST onto more people as a positive alternative and counter to Christian reactionaries.

Can you imagine the conversations “Friendly Atheist” writer Hemant Mehta or podcaster “The Thinking Atheist” or blogger “Joe.My.God” would be having if Joel Osteen’s church had sued a magazine for a negative story about suing former members for defamation, had lost all but one defamation claim relating to sexual abuse and coverups inside Osteen’s church, but then depositions had come out confirming not only did they know about an account of sexual assault, they kicked out the alleged victim and her friends for continuing to talk about it?

Oh yeah, and can you imagine all the excoriation Osteen’s church would get for showing no financial transparency about donations but court filings revealing they spent $43,350 on crisis management public relations firms, including $25,000 of it to the firm that helped the Catholic Church navigate its child sexual abuse scandal? There is no way they would ignore it or wait for some other news org to talk about it first; they would leap on the chance to break the news.

Instead, here we are.

So, it’s possible that the current schism will actually be the thing that weakens TST so much it, combined with Misicko getting increasingly authoritarian and more obviously personally reactionary, leads to Soling pulling a plug on the whole thing and walking away with a ton of documentary footage to run as an autopsy.

But more likely, media will keep trotting out the same “what if Satanists were good, actually?” story dynamic from press releases shaped by PR firms, ignoring the actual filings of actual court cases.

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