The Satanic Temple is now an official… temple.
According to them, the IRS has recognized the group as a tax-exempt religious organization, making them the first (and only) Satanic group to receive that designation. (Correction: Apparently, a group called “Lilith Grotto Church Inc. of the Church of Satan” received the same designation in 1980. The group appears to be non-existent now. At least I can’t find anything substantive to tell you about who they are, or what they do, or if they ever had any members.)
So there you have it. Satanists finally have something else in common with Joel Osteen.
Besides having the perk of being able to offer tax exemptions for donors, this may prove beneficial when filing religious discrimination lawsuits as they’ve done many times in the past. That’s according to a press release from Magnolia Pictures, which just put out a documentary about the Temple called Hail Satan?.
Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves added that there was nothing hypocritical about a group that fights religion applying for the religious tax exemption. In fact, he was motivated to seek the exemption specifically after Donald Trump signed an executive order telling the Treasury Department not to go after religious institutions.
… This distinction… will help profoundly with their efforts to demand all of the privileges enjoyed by other religious organizations. This includes: assuring that The Satanic Temple has the same access to public spaces as other religious organizations; affirming its standing in court when battling religious discrimination; and enabling The Satanic Temple to apply for faith-based government grants.
“In light of theocratic assaults upon the Separation of Church and State in the legislative efforts to establish a codified place of privilege for one religious viewpoint, we feel that accepting religious tax-exemption — rather than renouncing it in protest — can help us to better assert our claims to equal access and exemption while laying to rest any suspicion that we don’t meet the qualifications of a true religious organization,” said Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves. “Satanism is here to stay.”
(Incidentally, the debate over whether groups fighting organized religion should be called “religious” goes back a while.)
Another benefit? If evangelical Christians in the White House were ever able to successfully repeal the Johnson Amendment and endorse candidates from the pulpit without losing their tax-exempt status, The Satanic Temple could join in the fun. (Which Democrat wants that endorsement?)
While some media outlets have said the Temple has only claimed the receive the tax exemption and that the IRS has not confirmed it, here is the paperwork confirming the designation. Note that the approval occurred a couple of months ago, so this announcement was timed to coincide with the film’s release, and that it’s backdated to November of 2017.
Greaves told me in a separate statement that he was grateful to the group’s supporters… and had a message for Arkansas State Senator (and Christian propaganda pusher) Jason Rapert (whose first name is Stanley, though he goes by his middle name):
I would like to say that my first immediate thoughts, upon learning that The Satanic Temple is now federally legitimized as a Church, were of all of our hard working volunteers in our various chapters, our membership, who are scattered throughout the world, and our tireless National Council that has labored with such remarkable dedication to construct The Satanic Temple into a well-organized and sustainable world presence.
After years of facing befuddled opponents who are exasperated by the notion of a nontheistic religion and outraged at the audacity of Satanism, our entire community can feel a sense of vindication that assaults upon our authenticity and attempts to deny our claims to equal access have been effectively laid to rest in the domain where it matters most: in the litigious battlefronts of the Culture War. I can not thank our supporters enough for proving willing to stand with us or speak in our favor, even under threat of professional and/or social ostracization, or worse. Without them, this would not be.
I would like to say those were my first thoughts, but in reality I couldn’t help but to first revel in imagining the bitter frustration of the lawyers in Arkansas, and Senator Stanley Rapert, who were hoping to rest their entire legal defense against our claim of religious discrimination on the argument that we are not a “real” religion. With horror, they must realize now that their 10 Commandments monument on Little Rock capitol grounds must come down, or our Baphomet monument must be erected.
I thought of Mat Staver and the Liberty Council, who offered pro bono support to any school district wishing to deny our after school club on the grounds that we did not deserve religious recognition.
I also thought fondly back to the time that our After School Satan Club was granted nonprofit status, and the conservative Judicial Watch blamed Obama’s reign of terror. Surely, we can count on them to maintain a hypocritical silence regarding this outrage of religious equality committed on the Trump administration’s watch.
My first thought was of holding up a gloating middle finger to them all.
The other thoughts occurred to me shortly thereafter.
Defending religious freedom just got a little more interesting.
***Update***: State Sen. Jason Rapert sent me this statement in response to this story:
What a travesty. This group of misfits will lie and twist anything to make a mockery of faith and religious liberty in the United States. The IRS should be ashamed for being duped by this group’s scheme. I predict this will end up going very badly for the Satanic Temple in the future… As I said in reference to the Satanic Temple once before — it will be a very cold day in hell before anyone is able to force us to put up a monument of a profane statue on the grounds of the Arkansas Capitol.