Can the Satanic Temple save America?

While Blackmore reads, two women and one man, all cloaked, file onto the stage. Each puts on a hood, and they lose the cloaks—except for the hoods, they’re naked, and the optics are a bit Abu Ghraib. A few heavily intoned passages later, Blackmore pushes up their hoods and pours wine into their upturned mouths. All three choke on the wine, which doesn’t make it seem less Abu Ghraib. The reading ends, the crowd shouts, “Hail Satan,” and the three devotees smash the wine glasses they’re holding on the ground.

And that’s it. The ritual, Blackmore said, was written by the Detroit chapter and participation is entirely voluntary; it was “intended to empower guests to challenge arbitrary systems of authority, confront archaic traditions and celebrate the Satanic tradition,” she said. The ritual itself “represented concepts of shame, sexuality and normative religions traditions.”

Wineboarding aside, the modern Satanic Temple is about as non-threatening as a group of devil worshippers can get.

But that’s the point. Satanic Temple chapters across the country have been pushing back against the right-wing religious establishment, providing a vocal counterpoint to religious orthodoxy: like a planned statue of Baphomet next to a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma state Capitol, or the Satanic-themed coloring book being distributed to Florida elementary schools—simple but persistent reminders that freedom of religion applies across the board, that laws or guidelines intended to protect or promulgate right-wing Christianity or to blur the line between church and state convey the same access to other creeds.