Navy satanist will not have to choose between devil and deep blue sea

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The Independent Online

On the homepage of the Church of Satan, beneath the central figure with devilish horns flanked by men in animal masks, is the catchline "We're looking for a few outstanding individuals." The homepage of the Royal Navy, meanwhile, asks if you've got the strength of mind to succeed.

On the homepage of the Church of Satan, beneath the central figure with devilish horns flanked by men in animal masks, is the catchline "We're looking for a few outstanding individuals." The homepage of the Royal Navy, meanwhile, asks if you've got the strength of mind to succeed.

Horns and animal heads aside, the central messages are not dissimilar - they are on the lookout for a dedicated few. Which may explain why naval technician Chris Cranmer was attracted to both.

It emerged yesterday that Ldg Hand Cranmer, 24, from Edinburgh, has been recognised by the Royal Navy as a Satanist and granted permission to practise ritual on board.

Ldg Hand Cranmer told a Sunday newspaper he realised he was a Satanist nine years ago when he "stumbled across" a copy of the Satanic Bible - written by Church of Satan founder Anton Szandor LaVey.

"I then read more and more and came to realise I'd always been a Satanist," he said.

Tory former minister, Ann Widdecombe, said: "Satanism is wrong. Obviously the private beliefs of individuals ... are their own affair but I hope it doesn't spread.

"There should be no question whatsoever of allowing Satanist rituals on board any ship in Her Majesty's Royal Navy.

"What they believe and do in their own home is one thing, what they do at work is the business of their employer."

Ldg Hand Cranmer has become the first registered Satanist in the British Armed Forces after the captain of HMS Cumberland agreed to recognise his beliefs.

He was promoted to leading hand - the naval equivalent of corporal - in July last year.

He is said to be lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the Armed Forces, although an MoD spokesman said it was not aware of any approach.

The Church of Satan was established in San Francisco in 1966 and LaVey was its high priest until his death in 1997.

Followers live by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include "Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence; vengeance instead of turning the other cheek; and all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification."

A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: "We are an equal opportunities employer and we don't stop anybody from having their own religious values. Our policy is that, wherever practical, reasonable requests for time and facilities that do not impact on operational effectiveness or the welfare of other personnel, are met."

Doug Harris, director of the Reachout Trust, an evangelical Christian ministry that "builds a bridge of reason" to those involved in cults and the occult, said he agreed in principle that there must be opportunity for freedom of belief.

But he added: "The power is by definition supernatural, greater than the natural, and so could effect a change for evil in a persons life whether they wanted it or not."

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