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Herman: Satanic speaker backs out of giving City Council invocation


For a while, it looked like this Thursday’s Austin City Council meeting was going to open on a different and diverse note.

“Invocation,” the agenda said. “Jeremy Galloway, The Satanic Temple.”

Alas, we’ll have to wait to an indefinite Thursday in the future to know exactly what an invocation from a leader of the Satanic Temple sounds like. City spokesman Bryce Bencivengo told me Galloway has backed out because he’s going to be out of town this Thursday.

Too bad. I was looking forward to the probable kerfuffle that the intersection of government and Satanism could bring. So I’ll do my darnedest to stir it up here.

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Before we look into exactly what the Satanic Temple is, let’s look at how somebody from said institution gets on the agenda to give the invocation at a City Council meeting. Bencivengo said the city keeps a list of local folks who might want to offer the invocation. The list includes folks from congregations the city knows about and from people who ask to be on the list. Galloway asked his way on.

“Periodically we shoot out an email saying we need somebody to give an invocation for council” on given dates, Bencivengo said. “We take the people that reply yes and put them on the agenda for different days.”

He said he didn’t know if there were any objections to inviting Galloway to give the invocation. Galloway, whose title with the temple is “speaker” and who is being made a co-director, is out of town and unavailable to comment this week, according to Devin Desu, the temple’s chapter director.

Desu said he was curious about my interest, “since it would have been just another routine invocation by one of the many religious organizations within the Austin community.”

True enough. But, as someone once said, the devil is in the details.

The Satanic Temple Austin is affiliated with a national organization whose stated mission is to facilitate “communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists and advocates for individual liberty.”

The local group’s mission statement includes promoting “awareness of the Satanic cause within the community through education and outreach,” according to its website. In something called “Satanism 101,” the local group notes, “As with most religions, there is no one single type of ‘Satanism,’ so it can be difficult at first to figure out who’s who and what’s what.”

It says the list of “a few of the better-known” Satanic organizations includes “Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple, Temple of Set, First Satanic Church, Sect of the Horned God, United Aspects of Satan, Modern Church of Satan.” Still others, we’re told, identify as “Luciferian.”

It gets complicated, but most modern Satanism is “a religion with a distinct philosophy and ideology based mostly on the literary Satan of the Romantic Era. Writers like Milton, Blake, Shelly, Anatole France — and more recently even Mark Twain and Phillip Pullman, to name just two — have explored the Gnostic idea that the Abrahamic ‘God’ of Christianity, Judaism and Islam is not the true source of creation, but is instead a demiurge and authoritarian tyrant.”

I won’t insult your intelligence by assuming you don’t know what a demiurge is.

“In the works of these writers from The Satanic School, Lucifer — as he was named before the fall — was a hero for leading a rebellion of angels against God, and Satan — as he was named after the fall — along with the other fallen angels have been the true benefactors and mentors of humankind throughout our evolution and history,” the explanation says.

There’s a lot more — a whole lot more — in Satanism 101 and 102 on the website. Give it a read and you’ll see why I was looking forward to Galloway’s invocation.

The local Satanic Temple seems to know it’s kind of a target. Hence, this on its website: “Rants, prayers, and requests to perform supernatural rituals on your behalf will be discarded without reading them. Threats of any kind will be turned over to law enforcement.”

The website also recounts the April council meeting when Council Member Ann Kitchen offered a resolution declaring Austin a “compassionate community.” As happens at council meetings, the conversation drifted a bit and Council Member Don Zimmerman, a Christian, pushed back against the resolution because he saw it as urging a form of “idolatry” and, as this newspaper’s story reported, the resolution talked about compassion breaking down ideological boundaries when Zimmerman said that Jesus did that better than anyone.

Zimmerman also said the resolution was “marrying religion with politics” in a city with some folks who don’t even like it when religion dates politics. He offered an amendment that, after Kitchen accepted it, he revealed included wording from the Satanic Temple website. That language was eventually stripped from the resolution.

But Zimmerman, it seems, had earned a place in local Satanist lore. The local temple was formed in July.

“A fitting time, considering that Austin is typically hot as Hell in July,” says the website. “We begin with a simple invocation: Hail Satan! Hail Austin! Hail Don Zimmerman! We are here at last to bring much-needed Satanic insight to our beloved city!”

Lord and Lucifer know we can use all the help we can get, especially during rush-hour traffic when the names of both are oft-invoked.

P.S.: Replacing Galloway at Thursday’s council meeting will be Rev. Mark S. Nuckols of St. Paul Lutheran Church. That’s Lutheran, not Luciferian. There’s a difference.


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