Church of Satan Sigil of Baphomet

Hate Crime Against Satanists?

This morning I was made aware of an event which happened in Mountain View, Colorado. A couple who are open to the public about their affiliation with the Church of Satan have chosen to decorate the exterior of their home with items most others might use for a kitschy, Halloween-themed effect. They had included a “Vote Satan” sign, likely as an expression of their reaction to local politics. One can read about the details and view a video interview with the couple here:

As a general principle, I think the idea of “hate crimes” brings an aspect of nebulousness to prosecution. How can one be certain as to the actual motivation for any crime, unless the criminal is honest to law enforcement about his emotional and conceptual state prior to or during a criminal act? We do not have mind reading technology. Lie detector tests are not accurate. Since “hate crime” statutes often increase the level of punishment for a crime, only the most foolish of criminals would state that hatred and bigotry was a motivation for their actions.
However, since many jurisdictions in the United States have chosen to adopt this approach to dealing with crimes, then it should be applied across the board to anyone living under those laws. If the sign had said “Vote Allah” or “Vote Jesus” or even “Vote Moses,” would its theft and vandalism be considered to be a “hate crime”? If so, then local officials should not be so quick to dismiss this just because they may not share the religious or philosophical convictions of those who are the victims in this situation. The American system is one which protects the rights of expression for those who hold minority points of view. We can agree to disagree, but still have a voice. The word Satan on the poster is obviously a religiously charged one. It might be different if the poster had said “Vote Quimby” – something which a fan of the Addams family television show would understand as a joke about the supporting of political candidates that is far more secular. And Satanists like to point out that we are often like the Addamses – our aesthetics might not be shared by everyone, but we can still be vibrant, if unusual, members of our localities.
In the United States there tends to be a fairly broad-based commitment to a “live and let live” social attitude, and that is a position supported by the philosophy of Satanism, which is fundamentally an atheist perspective that champions freedom and individualism. Unless one has chosen to live in a place wherein there are regulated parameters for exterior decoration, then individuals are typically permitted to follow their own aesthetics so long as they do not violate community standards for obscenity. Most cities or towns do not have “aesthetics police” determining the acceptability of the level of taste of one’s home decor. My wife and I have a rather bold approach, to which many in our area have responded with compliments, but we understand that not everyone might enjoy our choices of color or our approach to landscaping. Certainly we are not thrilled with what everyone else has done with their residences, but we do not offer our opinions unless asked and we certainly would never vandalize properties which displayed either decor or political messages which were not congruent with our standards.
As we are about to celebrate Independence Day on July 4, a holiday which brings to mind the concepts of freedom of expression and support of individual liberty which are intrinsic to the values most Americans claim to cherish, it is interesting to note this situation and the reactions displayed by observers. So often people claim to support certain values, but when it comes to applying them to others who might not share the same opinions regarding topics like politics, religion, or even aesthetics, how quickly might those principles be abandoned? The neighbors interviewed in the above-mentioned article do seem to be supportive of the rights of the couple who had their poster stolen, and they should be commended for such a stance. They are not embracing whoever vandalized that poster, even though they themselves do not share in its message.
Perhaps the folk in Mountain View can gather together to enjoy the local fireworks display on July 4th? That would be a significant opportunity to salute the concepts that still make the United States a place many people around our globe seek out to make their home in their search for personal liberty.
Magus Peter H. Gilmore