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Guest Article

Lawsuits, Lawyers Are Expensive, The Satanic Temple

June 23, 2023

Wait, why is The Satanic Temple (still) suing you?

Because The Satanic Temple is an abusive religious organization owned by two thin-skinned men who use their organization’s collective wealth and resources to intimidate and punish critics.

Audio version of article

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Okay. But why are they suing you specifically?

Because one of the four co-defendants —David Johnson — criticized the two men — Doug Misicko and Cevin Soling — by name and in public on a Facebook page using the men’s own past statements, news articles written about them, and former member testimony about years of such behavior. This included things like Misicko illustrating a grotesquely racist book published by his friend (himself an early TST collaborator) or Soling trying to be a cargo cult messiah in the South Pacific.

The Temple’s owners then sued the three other people because they are malicious but also incompetent. Four people had more resources to pool than an individual does, so we’ve all been able to keep defending ourselves instead of capitulating like TST got other individuals to do in the past.

I thought you “literally stole” a Facebook page?

Oh, very much not, friend. We can say that categorically even with litigation ongoing. Facebook (now Meta) owns Facebook pages, and it could not be more clear about that in its terms of service.

Nor could existing U.S. federal case law, which is a big part of why The Satanic Temple’s lawsuit against us was dismissed in February 2021 and again in January 2023. TST is still appealing that loss and then filed a second case in state court in April 2023. (It’s a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP, so this and the expenses associated with our defense is all the point.)

But for Meta and its property, when you make someone the admin of a Facebook page, that person will have the ultimate administrative rights to that page as a user, and if you have a problem with that, you’re supposed to submit a ticket to Facebook to have them settle the issue for you.

The Temple’s owners didn’t like the answer it got in March 2020, so in April 2020, they decided to spend tens of thousands of their supporters’ dollars losing multiple lawsuits over that page.

I could have sworn TST claimed you guys straight up admitted you stole it though?

The Satanic Temple’s entire business model is predicated on claiming a lot of things that can’t (and don’t) hold up to any extended legal scrutiny.

In this case, what TST submitted as evidence was a co-defendant making a post a few days prior to chapter page changeover. It was about how he’d been kicked out without any warning or communication because he’d been CC’d on an email about sexual harassment and abuses of local leadership. The context was him losing overnight his community of five years that he co-founded with no process owed him when he had done nothing except be on leave to try to recuperate from burnout and a car wreck, then received an email.

In a comment on his own Facebook profile status, this defendant Nathan Sullivan says, “we stole” in reference to a Memes page that the local leaders had by then already said in writing and in public was free and clear for another defendant, Joshua Powell (known at that time as “Lenore Calavera”), to keep and keep posting meme-style content from.

So not only was it not stolen because of how Facebook pages work, that page had already been officially disclaimed by TST’s local representatives, and the person saying it had been involved in nothing more than being copied on an email. You can read the evidence and follow the timeline and see this for yourself.

All of this is to say that not only was the Memes page never TST’s property to have stolen from them in the first place, there is also written and audio evidence that TST voluntarily relinquished claims to it before the lawsuit ever began.

Subject line: Evergreen Memes for Queer Satanic Fiends

From: Tarkus Claypool <tarkus.claypool@gmail.com> Sat, Mar 14, 2020 at 9:09 PM
To: Lenore Calavera <[redacted]@gmail.com>
Hi Lenore,
I saw that you made some changes to the TST WA State Allies FB group. I just wanted to let you know that it's yours free and clear and
we've no desire to claim it. You and ADJ built it and have done a great job doing so. I'm confident you'll both continue doing awesome
work.
Sorry the way things panned out, and I do mean all of it. I wish you and your family well, and respect your need to fight the fight your
way.
Rock on,
-Tarkus Claypool
Media Liaison, The Satanic Temple of Washington
(he/him)
Source: March 14, 2020, email from TST Washington Media Liaison Paul Case a.k.a. “Tarkus Claypool” disclaiming ownership or desire for Facebook page from Declaration of Nathan Sullivan
Relevant clip from Exhibit 1 to the Declaration of Jeremy Roller in Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction (01:19:54 – 01:21:29)

And TST has been chasing that page through federal, appeals, and now state court pretending that an ultimately unrelated person saying that “we stole a page” is all the evidence they need to show that they were actually harmed. All the other allegations are ultimately just garnish at this point.

If the national Satanic Temple didn’t know about all this in March 2020 because their local people didn’t tell them, or because their lawyer decided to pretend that evidence didn’t exist, that’s not our fault.

That said, it’s also doubtful it would have mattered in the first place, because we directly showed TST’s lawyers evidence of TST’s relinquishment of the Meme page in July 2022, and yet they have continued to repeat what they know to be a lie in the courts and the press unabated. Their lawyer even outright admitted on Reddit that he was just making up allegations to drive up costs and damages and to gain the audience of a court that would otherwise have no constitutional authority to hear TST’s grievances. (The Satanic Temple is very bad at court cases.)

How honest do you really think they’re being?

At the end of the day, these are the same people who fabricated an entire federal copyright violation complaint around the idea that a nonexistent group was using their trademark, with no stronger evidence than a throwaway joke made by a person who is not a defendant and has never been involved in TST to begin with, suggesting his friend create an organization called “The Satanic Temple 2: Electric Boogaloo.

You’re definitely making that last part up.

Friend, we never have any need to do such a thing.

[redacted name] But the question is, will you found an actual organization The Satanic Temple 2: Electric Boogaloo? The Satanic Temple 2: The Second one? S2: The Mighty Satanists? Nathan Von Sullivan: Satanism Reloaded actually
111. Defendants’ competitor organization, which was provisionally entitled “The Satanic Temple 2: Electric Boogaloo” and “Satanic Washington – Archived Temple Chapter” had a likelihood of impairing the distinctiveness of TST as a famous mark. To-wit: (1) “The Satanic Temple 2: Electric Boogaloo” directly copies “The Satanic Temple;” and “Satanic Washington – Archived Temple Chapter” (emphasis added) directly suggests that the Washington Chapter has been replaced by Defendants’ competitor organization. (2) TST has an inherently distinctive mark because there is only one “The Satanic Temple,” Plaintiff, which has acquired distinctiveness as a mark through years of effort. (3) There is only one “The Satanic Temple” because TST jealously guards its intellectual property rights

Wow. That’s fucking ridiculous.

It sure is. But it’s also a part of the U.S. federal court record for you to see for yourself, and more importantly, it is perfectly in keeping with TST’s longstanding business model of shitting out bad legal arguments and forcing someone else to bear the cost and risk of refuting it.

This is just what the Temple does, is made to do, and will continue to do, until the court treats them like the vexatious litigants they are.

All right. Wasn’t there something about like cybercrimes though?

Yeah, because once again, The Satanic Temple’s whole legal strategy is throwing gibberish into the air and pretending it has merit just because it takes the form of a legal filing. In reality, what they want to pretend was “hacking” was nothing more substantive than “TST forgot the person they kicked out of their group was still the rightful administrator of a Facebook page and were too incompetent to check whether anyone was still logged into a Twitter account after being excommunicated.”

That’s really all there is to it. In January 2020, an admin gave two more people admin powers. This is the top level of power that exists for Facebook users — and includes the ability to remove other admins.

TST’s local representatives presumably knew this because the way that Paul “Tarkus Claypool” Case and Leah “Siri Sanguine” Garvais got control of the Memes page in the first place was by taking it away from its previous owners in the South Sound Satanists, convincing the page creators to add them on then later removing those people as admins. By the way, in case our saying so in a blog is not good enough for you, we’ve said all this under penalty of perjury in a sworn deposition.

It’s also really important to remember that Joshua Powell’s takeover of the Memes page took place almost a week before the same thing happened to the chapter page.

During that week, as other members who’d been kicked out or had left because of abuses within the local org began to gather and compare notes, it became obvious that if these issues were not talked about openly, they would be swept under the rug and forgotten yet again.

If you read what TST has called Johnson’s (“ADJ’s”) manifesto posted the night the chapter page was taken over, this is stated explicitly at the time:

If at any time in that next week TST’s local representatives had taken steps to remove Johnson as an admin, reach out to Johnson or the others expelled-without-process, or had just not been so damned awful to so many people for years, then taking over the chapter page — to, again, post already published news articles, past member stories, and Misicko and Soling’s own words — would not have been necessary or even possible.

Using the Facebook admin powers your Facebook profile has in order to tell others about the ways their religious leaders do not live up to their own stated principles is not “hacking” in any sense — unless you’re an abusive religious org groping around for more ways to build a SLAPP suit.

I guess I don’t understand why you didn’t give the Facebook page back to TST and just avoid all this though.

The Satanic Temple has had the chapter page, the page they originally claimed to be suing us over, since May 2020. Yet, after the case was dismissed the first time in February 2021, they have appealed and refiled multiple times since for completely unrelated things and against unrelated people.

In November 2022, TST sued a Texas woman after forcing her to record the verbatim retraction they demanded of her for two TikTok videos that were, if anything, overly generous.

Maybe total capitulation would have averted all this. But maybe not.

Ultimately, the context is what else was going on at the time.

If you don’t trust a blog, it’s part of our sworn depositions. If you don’t trust us, try all of these other people also there who shared their stories, most of them before we were even sued.

This isn’t “drama,” as some people uninterested in moving away from the status quo like to characterize conflict.

At its root, a prominent member of a local group was sexually harassed for months in 2018, nothing was done about it, and then afterward, that person’s image was used to promote the chapter for years as if nothing had happened despite repeated asks to stop doing that.

When again it seemed like the person’s image was used to boost The Satanic Temple publicly at an event in March 2020, rather than reach out and issue an apology for the various ways that person had been hurt, two people who started calling themselves “senior leadership” doubled down, unilaterally dissolved the democratic structures of the local group, and ramped up unilateral expulsion of longstanding members including a founding member so that “senior leadership” could control the narrative toward those who remained.

And this was not the first time this had happened.

The idea that The Satanic Temple’s owners are entitled to profit off of all of the collective labor of TST membership and be able to do so without criticism is very much the principle the Temple and its sycophants operate on, but there’s no reason anyone else should.

But like, what about the Memes page and other stuff?

There is no other stuff. TST had the rest of the social media accounts the entire time, and TST didn’t even bother to try for the Memes page until July 2022, more than two years into litigation when it had grown from less than 500 followers to more than 20,000. As of June 2023, they still have never made any formal argument to show that they have any legal claim to the page in the first place.

It’s never been about Facebook pages.

Wait, the Memes page had 500 followers at the start of this?

Yeah, or even less. This is pissant stuff. The chapter page for TST Washington had all of 17,000 followers in March 2020, and that’s how much it has now, three-plus years later. We started two other pages from scratch in that time, and grinded one of them (Anarchist Dreams with Queer Satanic Themes) to be larger than the chapter page (20,000 followers as of June 2023).

TST has been trying to tie a completely made-up value to those counts ($2 per follower), then refusing to show its work before demanding court-ordered payment. And at the same time as they leave those claims fallow, they also keep explicitly admitting that they’re really only concerned about the criticism above anything else.

How can you say that it’s “only about the criticism” and not any of the other things they accuse you of?

The biggest and most obvious reason is that The Satanic Temple has threatened to sue lots of people, and other people walked off with their local’s social media and even physical property sometimes. The only overlap of that Venn Diagram is when the people walking off with social media also used it to criticize TST.

But, notably, TST has threatened to sue people for violating non-disparagement agreements when they wrote criticism on Medium.com; TST has sued Newsweek and its reporter for writing about this suit in that magazine and threatened other journalists for writing something other than re-wording TST’s press releases; and, again, the Temple sued The Satanic Housewife for making TikTok videos.

When The Satanic Temple of Chicago’s two leaders nuked their social media and allegedly walked off with the group’s nativity display “Knowledge is the Greatest Gift”, those leaders did it otherwise quietly. Hence, no lawsuit despite the supposed loss of social media value.

And when TST Los Angeles left to form HelLA, they did it loudly and were harassed. The Satanic Temple refers to critics who leave on bad terms as “Shitteners”, has a few dozen national members on their “Threat Assessment Team” for monitoring online conversations, and pays at least one contractor to flag “defamatory” content in any medium, such as podcasts.

This is not exactly tough to pull together or point out, it’s just that few people want to look at it.

OK, but please, please, what else is The Satanic Temple accusing you of specifically?

If you were to ask them or their lawyer, Matthew Kezhaya, as to why this battery of lawsuits persists, they would tell you that the four of us:

  • breached TST’s internal code of conduct,
  • stole their Facebook pages,
  • somehow used those pages as the “startup capital” to boost a competitor organization called “The Satanic Temple 2: Electric Boogaloo,”
  • conspired to funnel TST donations and members to this organization instead,
  • infringed upon their trademarks,
  • defamed the Temple by tying it to “extremist” political groups and beliefs,
  • and apparently stole numerous “trade secrets” in the process as well.

Those are all allegations that the Temple has made against us in federal court, and which they continue to pursue to this day, and which they hold up to any media outlet that happens to ask about it.

All of these allegations are also baldfaced lies.

TST has repeatedly failed to meet its legal burden of proof for any of these claims, even while given the explicit benefit of the doubt by the letter of the law, and has even occasionally offered evidence that directly contradicts them.

When that failing is pointed out to them directly in a legal response, TST defends itself by simply repeating its assumptions more loudly and demanding restitution in the form of orders that the court has no legal or even constitutional authority to grant. That malicious incompetence played a pivotal role in their finally losing in federal court in January 2023.

And while TST pretends to care so much about freedom of speech that it publicly upholds “the freedom to offend” in one of its core tenets, the reality is that in the context of this lawsuit, TST has demonstrated repeated contempt for very basic principles of the First Amendment. Their frivolous defamation claim revolved around, among other things, the idea that saying TST rejected white supremacy was an “extremist” position that damaged TST’s brand.

These are the only two places where “extremism” appears in TST’s original complaint.

And when the court said that it could not constitutionally determine what TST’s beliefs actually were when adjudicating this claim, or risk violating the separation of church and state, TST complained that this wasn’t good enough. TST is now appealing this ruling in the 9th Circuit, in large part by arguing that any criticism of a church’s beliefs should be considered possible defamation if the church is willing to argue that that criticism resulted in lost donations.

Again, in its argument, TST actively demands that it should be the sole arbiter of whether speech it finds politically inconvenient is legally protected, and that it should be able to direct the state at will to retaliate against its critics regardless of any existing standards of constitutionally protected speech. To be as blunt as possible, this is TST trying to establish its own personal blasphemy laws.

TST raises countless donations and headlines every year on the idea that it is a champion of progressive religious liberty, and is uniquely situated to redirect the legal arguments of Christian nationalists to work on behalf of the same marginalized groups that those arguments were initially created against. This is pure snake oil to capitalize on the desperation and justified negative partisanship of the most vulnerable people in the country, and preys upon a widespread and fundamental ignorance in our country of the historical reality of how civil rights are built or corroded.

But this narrative of TST has a secondary purpose as well: to draw attention away from how it actually performs in court and internally, and away from further discussion as to what its priorities actually are. And the substance of their lawsuits against us – and against their other critics elsewhere – all suggest that TST is not interested in acting as a refutation of Christian theocracy, so much as it is in simply appropriating a small piece of that theocracy for itself.

If you take nothing else away from reading this article, it should be this:

The Satanic Temple is actively structured to be a greater threat to its own members and critics than it has ever been interested in meaningfully posing to the white Christian nationalists running rampant at every level of government.

TST is deliberately, currently dedicating resources to crafting legal arguments that would undermine the separation of church and state further, specifically to suppress very real and substantive criticism from members and journalists alike about the Temple’s history and priorities – and within the jurisdiction of the same Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.

How can we help you?

Money.

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Queer Satanic Heretics

But also tell other people about this, especially if you have a story to tell about your time in The Satanic Temple.

That’s it? But I want to know even more more about the lawsuit!

Oh boy are you in luck, friend.

When it comes to The Satanic Temple, there’s always more and it’s always worse.

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