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How the Satanic Temple is turning the debate about religion upside down

Not to be confused with the Church of Satan from the Sixties, the modern organisation’s grassroots activism and clever deployment of humour might be exactly what the world needs right now, writes Holly Baxter

Sunday 16 August 2020 10:38 BST
Netflix was sued for featuring ‘Baphomet with Children’ in the ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’
Netflix was sued for featuring ‘Baphomet with Children’ in the ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’ (Netflix)

In November 2018, Netflix and Warner Brothers were sued over copyright infringement. The entity that sued them took issue with a particular statue in the Netflix show the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, in which a teenage witch is preyed upon by a shady organisation populated by demons. The statue at the centre of the controversy is usually known as “Baphomet with Children”, and depicts a goat-headed figure with a pentagram on its forehead, the torso of a man and the wings of an angel. The entity suing Netflix over the effigy? None other than the Satanic Temple of the United States.

“The Satanic Temple is pleased to announce that the lawsuit it recently filed against Warner Bros and Netflix has been amicably settled,” wrote Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves on the religion-themed website Patheos in November 2018, before continuing to say that he was surprised by the amount of hate mail he and his compatriots had received after choosing to file the lawsuit. “When I read these things, I can’t help but wonder when the last time was that any of these angry commenters wrote to a public representative or approached any issue of importance in any way,” Dean added. “I particularly loved the confused claim from the people who said we were ‘playing victim’, with the alternative being that we simply stand silent when we feel our work may have been exploited. Interesting, too, are the almost equal numbers of those who say we’re being ‘just like Christians’ (though how is never made clear).”

The terms of the settlement remain confidential; we can presume that the Satanic Temple did not receive the $50m they asked for when they filed the suit in Manhattan, New York, arguing that their statue’s association with an evil cult in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina would bring serious injury to their reputation. We know that they are now thanked in the credits of the show, which is a significant PR win for an organisation which relies on the shock factor and the associated googling it leads interested viewers to do. Any and all other details remain between the Satanic Temple, Warner Brothers and Netflix (a sentence few of us may have thought we’d ever read or write).

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