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Guest Article

The Satanic Temple, What The Hell Is The Satanic Temple?

November 2, 2021

What the hell is “The Satanic Temple”? — Ep. 3: United Federation of Churches LLC


For more information, see The.Satanic.Wiki

“Is it science fiction or a cult?”

The first and most prominent of corporations dedicated to The Satanic Temple seems to clearly be named as a reference to something, but is it a reference to the fictional, secular utopianism of “United Federation of Planets” in Star Trek? Or is it a reference to “United Federation of Churches”, one of the front companies of Sun Myung Moon’s very real cult-turned-enduring-mass movement the Unification Church (i.e. “Moonies”)?

These are the sort of questions that seem terribly important when you’ve been trying to untangle The Satanic Temple for months.

Three episodes in and we’re now finally getting to what most people are thinking of when they refer to TST; that is, United Federation of Churches, LLC d/b/a “The Satanic Temple”.


Probably. Maybe.

See, “The Satanic Temple” started as a project connected with co-owner Cevin Soling’s existing corporation Spectacle Films Inc., as we detailed in the previous episode.

More than a year passes between TST’s first public event in Florida and for-profit company United Federation of Churches LLC incorporating in Massachusetts in February 2014, even though TST would file retroactive intellectual property claims under their limited liability corporation stretching back to Jan. 1, 2013. So figuring out when “The Satanic Temple” came to exist as it’s understood today is a bit tricky, partially overlapping with the Spectacle Films-project era but evidently preceding even that.

“Speak of the Devil” by Joseph P. Laycock

In fact, per Joseph Laycock’s book, Soling’s germ of an idea for TST began all the way back in 2001 in response to George W. Bush’s Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

“They wouldn’t allow a Satanic organization to take advantage of this,” Laycock quotes Soling’s pseudonym “Malcolm Jarry” thinking.

By 2007, during an international flight with Soling’s friend and fellow filmmaker David Guinan, Soling was considering the reaction to someone demanding federal funds for “a Satanic soup kitchen,” Guinan told Laycock. (By the way, this would track with the two of them flying to the island of Tanna in the South Pacific for their Spectacle Films documentary project John Frum, He Will Come a.k.a. Mr. Cevin and the Cargo Cult.)

Laycock relates that Soling and Doug Misicko, at that point going by public pseudonym “Doug Mesner”, met sometime in 2012 at a Harvard faculty party club where Soling was telling a woman about how much Soling hates public schools until she left Soling and Misicko together, with the two hitting it off so much they became “friends and briefly roommates”, as Laycock relates.

Laycock describes “the birth certificate of TST” to be an essay titled “Educational Mission: A Report and Plan of Action” aimed at then Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which Soling completed Dec. 12, 2012. We have only one line of this proto-TST manifesto, again via Laycock.

Action is based on the theory that when the rules that are used to subjugate a population are applied to the people who create and enforce those rules, constructive changes occur.

If true, this would explain so much of what has happened — and failed to happen — in nearly a decade of TST activity since. But there’s some reason to doubt this official narrative.

The first public evidence of TST is someone creating a Facebook page a few weeks later; a Twitter account the same month (initially as “@SatanicPsalms”, since re-named “@satanic_temple_”). The same day there is a since-deleted Facebook post from the “Lucien Greaves” Facebook profile also pushed to Twitter: Let the great Satanic “coming out” begin!

The very first public activity of The Satanic Temple.

The earliest “Lucien Greaves” posts have apparently been scrubbed, but one of the other posts from their “The Satanic Temple” Facebook page remains for that same day.

Finally, a website for TST appeared sometime before January 2013; in fact, the domain information for TheSatanicTemple.com indicates a registry date of March 7, 2012, contradicting the December manifesto story Soling related to Laycock. It may not have been launched publicly till much later. It was certainly public by Jan. 11, when the Miami Herald article referenced it, but Web archivists were not able to preserve anything it may have said prior to Jan. 13.

TST original logo

This early website marked by its now-abandoned “cattle skull” logo, had nine fundamental tenets, claimed to be a theistic Satanist sect, and included a fictional history apparently intended specifically to needle SMART (“Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse”) founder and crank Neil Brick, whom Misicko — as “Doug Mesner” — had already had a long-running feud with.

In 2006, Neil Bricke (sic), raised in a multigenerational Satanic Temple tradition of worship, decided, with the blessings of his fellow Satanic devotees, to officially found the Satanic Temple so that those theistic Satanists who continue to practice their religion in silence might find community and the understanding and support of like-minded individuals now publicly accessible to them.

Two days later, the founding date had been pushed forward six years to 2012, although this was enough to fool ABC News who also reported it credibly, calling “Bricke” the founder while also quoting a “Lucien Greaves”.

The more extensive Miami Herald article includes more detail:

“This is not a hoax,” said Greaves, who also goes by “Overlord”. “This is for real.”

He said more than 100 members of his group, clad in black robes, will attend.

“We feel it will be a great satanic coming out,” Greaves said.

Asked if he thought Scott, a staunch Christian conservative, had intended for groups like his to take advantage of the new law, Greaves replied: “We take him at his word. It promotes religious freedom of all types.”

Greaves, 30 (sic), lives in Cambridge, Mass. He wouldn’t say what he does.

“I’m kind of nervous,” Greaves said. “I’m not sure what the reaction to this would be.”

“Overlord” was Misicko’s nickname for himself for his Dysgenics.com website going back at least to 2003, but the name “Lucien Greaves” itself is likely a dig at disgraced Satanic Panic psychologist George B. Greaves. For Jan. 25, 2013, at their first rally and public event in Tallahassee, Fla., this was a role played by horns-and-cloak-wearing actor Michael Wiener.

It was remarked on by a reporter at the time that there was film crew taping local media covering the event, footage that ultimately seems to have made its way into the Penny Lane film Hail Satan?

Overall, it was a dud.

Rather than 100 people, TST only managed six, counting Misicko and Wiener. As preserved on their website, the speeches were supposed to go a certain way, which it looks like involved Wiener giving a talk as “Overlord Lucien Greaves” prior to Misicko giving the keynote as “head of The Satanic Temple”, which — again, referring back to the initial website — meant Misicko was being “Neil Bricke”.

Doug Misicko as “Neil Bricke” at Rick Scott rally in Tallahassee (Jan. 25, 2013)

Pseudonyms!

But a full recording of the event is lacking, and likely only TST has preserved it, so evidence of exactly what did happen is not completely clear.

To make this even more complicated, the archived website has a URL for its news blog posts that ends “author/cevin” but the display name for those same posts is “Lucien”, further establishing that the original idea for the character was to be shared by several people, likely Misicko, Soling, and David Guinan.

Regardless, they seem to have taken a few months to quietly re-tool after the disappointment of the Rick Scott rally.

Piecing together the timeline from their preserved press releases, March 14, 2013, TST announced it was looking to present some lectures and that it had launched a Web forum. Misicko seems to have stepped into the role of “Lucien Greaves” for good by April 11, 2013. This is when Soling (as “Cevin Soling”) and a Lucien Greaves were back in Cambridge, Mass., giving a talk at Harvard (along with Szandora LaVey, an independent Satanist). Soling spoke about “the use of religion in the service of social activism and as a potential device to protect civil liberties.” Greaves gave a talk humbly titled “A History of Satanism from the Old Testament to The Satanic Temple.” TST posted to their Facebook about it April 26, which is the page’s earliest extant photo; and a blog post May 7, 2013, with a text portion of that talk included an announcement that their forum was active. They continued to post to their social media during this period but had not really made a splash outside of that.


Launch attempt №. 2 began June 10, 2013, with a couple of announcements.

TST began their Adopt-A-Highway fundraising campaign to take care of a portion of roadway in New York City, ultimately falling well short of their sought $15,000. What happened to the money they did raise is not clear.

The same day, TST announced its new “high priest”, one Brian Werner, then a vocalist for the metal band Vital Remains who provided some much-needed Satanic credibility for future actions.

One of several announcement posts June 10, 2013

Trump supporter Brian Werner holds a sign prior to a rally for…
Trump supporter Brian Werner holds a sign prior to a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on March…www.gettyimages.com

Werner would later go on to gain some infamy as a Trump-supporting Satanist but unlike Werner’s “just joking” racist Trayvon Martin hoodie design, that did not happen while Werner still had an elevated position in TST.

Actually, Werner would ultimately part ways with TST a year and a half later in December 2014, complaining of the liberal, poseur drift of The Satanic Temple, but he also claimed his close friend Misicko had had a lawyer send him a six-page NDA to sign, with Werner making unflattering comparisons to Scientology. Werner was exactly the sort of edgelord, reactionary-libertarian Satanist that TST now claims it’s not, and his loud exit had the benefit of attracting people who actually wanted a leftier Left Hand Path. But that’s getting ahead of things. Werner’s arrival signaled a desire for more Satanic credibility than the first time around had attempted.

This mid-June period also seems to be when Misicko (we’ll just use Greaves to refer to Misicko from here on) brought in another old friend and veteran Satanist to help promote TST: Shane Bugbee.

Previously, in the article “Why You Haven’t Left The Satanic Temple, we went into some detail about Bugbee and Greaves’ history together going back to when they promoted their new edition of Might Is Right in 2003. Ten years later, the two apparently still had very different ideas for what TST might be than Cevin Soling and David Guinan, even to the point of pitching Soling on re-publishing the original Might Is Right and writing their own updated “MIR II” before Soling squashed the idea of publicly associating TST with such a grotesquely antisemitic, racist, misogynistic work of proto-fascism.

It’s the following month, July 2013, that The Satanic Temple finally breaks onto the scene in a manner that is more recognizable to what they are today than to what had come before it.

Back in January 2013, TST’s press release had gotten the attention of The Young Turks mostly positively, ABC straightforwardly, and then the smattering of local media that quickly identified the rally as a hoax and some reactions to that.

Using Bugbee’s connections at Vice, however, TST was able to leverage their stunt of having a gay couple and a lesbian couple each kiss over the Mississippi gravestone of the mother of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps in TST called a “pink mass”. In fact, Vice covered it a day before TST sent out their press release for it.

Satanists Turned the Founder of the Westboro Baptist Church’s Dead Mom Gay
The Satanic Temple, a burgeoning community of worship devoted to the Dark Lord, has performed a “Pink Mass” over the…www.vice.com

Gay couple kissing over the grave of Catherine Johnston with Doug Misicko in horned helmet as Lucien Greaves officiating in what was called a “pink mass”

Many more articles followed:

As that last one indicates, it also got some local news with the private cemetery’s property owner filing a charge of “desecration of a cemetery” against Greaves, though nothing seems to have come of it.

(This is because Greaves also took pictures of putting his naked ballsack on the grave, a fact Vice was apparently aware of but removed except for the only-once-used news tag “teabagging graves”. Some of the other news stories include censored photos and/or link to the uncensored dick-in-hand, balls-on-gravestone photos, so be aware of that.)

This July 2013 incident is still ostensibly promoting the Adopt-A-Highway campaign, but it’s an awkward fit, isn’t it? It’s petty, it’s juvenile, it harkens back to Greaves and Bugbee’s stunts from nearly 10 years earlier, prank-calling a suicide hotline pretending to be in crisis or a psychic hotline to claim to worry about having a disabled child while repeatedly using the r-slur. Even visually, this stunt is transitional: Greaves is wearing the same horned helmet actor Michael Wiener wore for the Tallahassee rally that doesn’t ever seem to reappear after this one.

But will Greaves placing his bare testicles on a gravestone be referenced in the federal court record nearly seven years later? It certainly will be.

In the immediate wake of the “pink mass”, though, Shane Bugbee’s childhood friend the comedian Matt Dwyer interviewed Greaves for Dwyer’s podcast, then again following Bugbee’s “unmasking” article for Vice published July 30, 2013.

Unmasking Lucien Greaves, Leader of the Satanic Temple
Lucien Greaves of the Satanic Temple first showed up at my door over a decade ago. He wanted a copy of a book I had…www.vice.com

Knowing what we now know, this is much less peculiar than it would have been to anyone taking notice at the time. Who would commission that article? Who even cares about unmasking “Lucien Greaves”, some gravestone-prank nobody, at this point?

Well, of course, Shane Bugbee does because Bugbee is getting paid by Cevin Soling to promote The Satanic Temple, and this supposed “unmasking” makes it seem like there’s a story here without anything more needing to actually happen.

A year after this, the business and personal relationships were no longer quite so chummy between them all, leading Bugbee to be the main source for Anna Merlan’s “Trolling Hell: Is The Satanic Temple a Prank, the Start of a New Religious Movement — or Both?” But that’s jumping ahead again.

In that second interview with Bugbee’s podcaster friend, published Aug. 7, 2013, Greaves lays out TST’s goals of making use of religious liberty laws as Satanists to confound the Christian dominionists, following with Soling’s supposed manifesto. Now, it seems rather obvious now that reactionaries can’t really have their rules used against them because they view their own power as legitimate and everyone else’s as illegitimate. But this was the second Obama administration and lots of liberals still thought political change was just a puzzle that you could cleverly solve with proper rhetoric. It’s definitely the right pitch.

Greaves also says they’re working on incorporating. Whatever else was happening behind the scenes, this is the first public indication we’ve come across so far that The Satanic Temple would not be a mere Spectacle Films product with an expiration date and there were any longer-term ambitions for it.

But once again, it stalls. There’s another lull in attention until, quite weirdly, Lucien Greaves is interviewed by journalist Lucia Graves of the National Journal. Actually, Graves the journalist seems to have been alerted to the existence of TST in January 2013 due to her name’s similarity with the pseudonymous spokesman’s, so it may be less of a coincidence than a consequence of a coincidence.

If Misicko was the one playing the Lucien Greaves role initially in that Miami Herald January interview, he claimed then to be about seven years younger than he actually was at the time (30 instead of 37). Here, he goes for 10 years younger.

NJ: What do you do when you’re not serving as communications director to TST?

Greaves: I actually do freelance writing, film work, Web design.

NJ: And where are you based?

Greaves: I am in Cambridge, Mass.

NJ: How old are you?

Greaves: About the same age as you.

NJ: I’m 28.

Greaves: Good enough.

Five years later, of course, Greaves would claim that his antisemitic rant and hosting of an Internet radio stream for a fascist book release was due to him being in his early 20s when he was actually 28 in 2003. This probably doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a funny pattern to find.

The National Journal tapped Lucien Greaves again the following month for a Satanic perspective on a Supreme Court exchange in Town of Greece v. Galloway about nondenominational invocations. Antonin Scalia had asked, “What about devil worshippers?”

There, Douglas Laycock — yes, he is the father of Speak of the Devil author Joseph P. Laycock — claimed “the almighty” might be general enough to please everyone, but the conservative justices said that would not do, which Greaves agrees with after the fact playing the role of something of an authority on Satanism.


All of that finally gets us up to December 2013, and this is where it becomes impossible to comprehensively keep track of The Satanic Temple anymore because they get an Associated Press story treating as credible the announcement that TST is going to bring a Baphomet statue to Oklahoma City to counter the 10 Commandments monument there. Once that happens, TST is off to the races

.Okla. Satanists seek monument by Statehouse steps
A Ten Commandments monument currently sits outside the Statehouse Okla. Satanists believe if one religion should be…www.usatoday.com

This established not just TST as a brand but the pattern of how almost all newsrooms would treat them going forward: “big, mean evangelicals force their religion on everyone, but surprisingly, some scrappy Satanists showed up to tweak the meanies with a challenge using a religious pluralism argument that has a good chance of success.”

As it turned out, The Satanic Temple did not and would never accomplish anything in this matter; the ACLU and their Baptist minister Dr. Bruce Prescott ultimately took care of that in a case completely unrelated to TST’s activities. Had it not come to that, the Hindu statue proposed by Rajan Zed, a board member for the Universal Society of Hinduism and experienced activist, certainly seemed a much more legitimate threat in the name of pluralism and extant religious communities than a Spectacle Films project still publicly lying about its own origins and still in process of figuring out if it was a future movie; a merch store; or actually actually a religion.

TST did successfully fundraise $28,180 on their IndieGoGo launched the day after their AP wire story broke big. That allowed them to commission an artist to make a statue of Baphomet they could make an intellectual property claim to, ultimately suing Netflix in their sole successful litigation to date. They would never really have a quiet period again after this.

“Happy Holidays from The Satanic Temple” display which has an angel falling into flames between a three-panel poster board that looks like it was made by a highschooler on a deadline
December 2014 display

December 2013 also marked the start of a smaller but actually successful endeavor to get a holiday display into the Florida Capitol alongside nativities, Festivus Poles, and Pastafarians.

This represents the sort of role The Satanic Temple might have played if it was led by different, humbler people with different ultimate goals; it’s a path largely not traveled where TST coordinated with other established orgs in places where they might be helpful to pluralism as effective poison pills. Indeed, supported by the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUCS), TST’s display got its approval the second time they applied, the following winter.

By then, United Federation of Churches LLC, d/b/a “The Satanic Temple” officially existed.

Lucien Greaves — as “Douglas Misicko” this time — filed a certificate of organization with the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office Feb. 4, 2014, with himself as sole officer of the for-profit corporation, not yet involving Cevin Soling or his pseudonyms, or David Guinan, who never would appear on official paperwork. Greaves utilized a UPS store mailbox in Somerville, Mass., and officially moved TST out of Spectacle Films’ home in NYC. A month later, March 14, the “United Federation of Churches, LLC” registers with the US Patent and Trademark Office its first mark which is also its “doing business as”: The Satanic Temple.

Application for The Satanic Temple
Trademark/Service Mark Application, Principal Register STANDARD CHARACTERS YES USPTO-GENERATED IMAGE YES LITERAL…uspto.report

With that, the for-profit entity known as The Satanic Temple can definitely be said to exist as its own entity.

But how could a for-profit company owned by one person (ultimately two people) successfully argue it was a religion?

Who and where was all of the money from the merch sales going to and which person did donations to “Lucien Greaves” ultimately go to?

And if, as they have later claimed, they wanted a more anodyne corporate name that wasn’t obviously Satanic, why did they choose “United Federation of Churches” specifically?

Were they planning to create a secular utopian future like in science fiction? Or…?


Next time, we’ll take a look at Reason Alliance Ltd., the 501(c)(3) nonprofit also founded in 2014 and intimately entangled with The Satanic Temple but the only one of any of these overlapping corporations ever to provide any window into what TST does with its money.

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