I've been trying to figure out exactly what the Satanic Temple is, and as far as I can tell it started from left-wing atheists who donned the mantle of a fictional Satanic church to push Christian displays out of government buildings and public institutions, but its members stay in character and won't admit it is satire. To complicate it further, the organization has attracted real satanists, who were allowed to join.
Village Voice writer Anna Merlan did a great investigation on the organization. She reveals that the group started as a film project where actors pretending to be satanists gave a public demonstration in January 2013 to thank Florida Governor Rick Scott for allowing students to lead prayers in school assemblies. This idea was to make christians wince and realize it opened the door for satanic prayers as well.
This May the group unveiled a statue of a goat-headed figure it threatened to install in the Oklahoma Statehouse to accompany a Ten Commandments sculpture. Satanic Temple spokesman Doug Mesner, under the assumed name of Lucien Greaves, said they didn't really want to put it there, but if there's going to be a Christian statue than the law demands all religions be able to place their own statue there.
Get it? They are forcing Christian lawmakers to chose between having Satanic images in public, or banning all religious displays.
So enter a school district in Florida that allowed people to pass out Bible. The Satanic Temple created a coloring book to pass out in the same school district, and Mesner/Greaves spelled out their motivation clearly in a press release.
We would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools because we believe our constitutional values are better served by respecting a strong separation of Church and State. However, if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students – as is the case in Orange County, Florida – we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to our youth.
Well, the school board just caved and declared that they won't let anyone on campus to distribute religious materials. I do have to hand it to them, the Satanic Temple set it up so they win either way. If they get to install their religious statue or pass out satanic coloring books, christians who support the Ten Commandment sculpture or Bible distribution will be exposed as hypocrites and forced to comply by a court. Their only alternative is to prevent the religious materials altogether, like the Florida school district just did.
I think their parody church is being dishonest when they deny being a farce and feign sincerity as a secular satanist group, but then again, they pretty much have to. If they revealed that they are only pretending to be Satanists, opponents could use that against them when they try to pull their next stunt and argue that they aren't espousing actual religious views.