Church of Satan Sigil of Baphomet

Let Freedom… Ding! by Reverend Les Hernandez

Back in 2002 C.E., I happened to be online doing searches to see how my various projects and websites were doing in web searches. One search I did was for the phrase “Satanism in Hawaii.” I was immediately taken aback by what popped up: an excerpt from the Student Handbook of a local public high school. It listed several things as contraband, such as drug paraphernalia, clothing displaying profanity, and, to my bewilderment, Satanism! At the time, I was employed by Hawaii’s Department of Education, though not at the school this mandatory dress code was published for. Those who know me are well aware that I’m not the type of person to let things like this slide if something could be done about it. After all, this wasn’t about simply banning items of clothing one group might view as blasphemous—this was about singling out one specific religion, without provocation, to outright ban.

I remember thinking to myself of how much worse off my own youth would have been were the jocks and gangs in my old school given carte blanche permission, albeit inferred, that my chosen religion and its symbols were all fine to deface. It wouldn’t be a long way from there for those students to assume that it’s also acceptable to deface adherents of said shunned religion. Society in many parts of the country aren’t so far from this line of thinking even without having Satanism openly singled out in public school.

Looking back into the history of the use of the word satanism (small s), anyone can see that it was used as an insult due to the prevailing ideologies of Christianity at the time. Before 1966 no one would dare come out and publicly declare him/herself a Satanist. Even the charlatan and Great Attention Whore, Aleister Crowley, wouldn’t go all the way with such a dangerous label. To point the finger at someone and call them satanist back them was to spark mob-think in the fearful masses, which almost never ends well for the accused, no matter how innocent. Not much has changed. The masses today are still generally dull-witted and reactionary, even if Satanism was now a full-fledged religion in its own right

So how, then, to go about fixing this before it potentially led to not so good times for any young Satanists out there? How to go about doing so without putting my own means for survival on the line? Moreso, how to go about achieving both without looking like a goddamned attention-starved tool?

Satanism was never intended to become a political movement. We want complete separation between religion and government. This wasn’t about trying to put Satanism into public schools, but to safeguard my legal and aboveboard religion from being singled out—and the slippery slope that would lead to. This was going to require planning, not protests. To do this without delving into the murky waters of hypocrisy meant that it wasn’t going to be The Church of Satan Vs. Kaimuki High School. It had to be done right. There are plenty of secular civil groups with decades of experience behind them that are far better suited to such a task, so I contacted someone I was already familiar with locally who worked with the ACLU. We spoke and he agreed that this was a worthy endeavor in the way of civil liberties and Constitutional rights.

Our basic logic he would use would be that Satanism is a legitimate, legal religion, as could be proven by the old inclusion in the Army Handbook for Chaplains. This, coupled with the added weight of the ACLU and the Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church speaking on behalf of a serious adherent of said religion and (at the time) Grotto Master in the actual Church of Satan, gave us good footing to plant our case firmly enough upon. The meat of our argument was in the U.S. Constitution itself:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…“—Amendment I

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.“—14th Amendment

So, there it was. The Fourteenth Amendment defended and protected the First. When this was brought to the school’s principle he couldn’t logically disagree. It was also brought to his superiors, who then demanded that all schools in the State of Hawaii go through their guidelines, dress codes, et cetera, and remove any and all forms of singling out of any particular religions. Public schools needed to remain plural in their allowance of student’s choice of religion or lack thereof. No one needed their face in the public spotlight to get this done. No one needed to “push the envelope,” as it were. It was civil and tastefully done. Classy, like Old Nick Himself.

Media picked it up, yes, but it was in a very positive light, and folks knew that Satanists had the brains and the backbone required to show the courage of our conviction. In fact, I remember our dear High Priestess Nadramia writing back to me in an email when I first reported this all to her (along with a VHS tape of a KITV News clip of it) that this was some of the best press the Church of Satan had had in years. Other groups since haven’t been able to pull something like this off with the necessary decorum.

This is how Americans can make our system work for us rather than be victims. Our Founding Fathers provided the safeguards we need to protect and defend our religious freedom. We just have to be aware of the tools at our disposal. Much like Doctor LaVey said with regards to Satanism itself and what it demands: study, not worship!

These brief couple of days back in 2002 definitely came to mind as I was surrounded by so many other outstanding individuals who threw their lot in with our cabal and held their horns high at our 50th Anniversary Ritual and Gala in Poughkeepsie on that elegant Walpurgis night. Yet another reason religious freedom is important!