Devilishly Good: ‘Hail Satan?’ - TST Documentary at Sundance

Lucien Greaves of the The Satanic Temple and director Penny Lane interview with L.A. Times at Chase Sapphire for the premier of “Hail Satan?” at Sundance.
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In her documentary Hail Satan?, director Penny Lane demystifies The Satanic Temple and its rituals.

Hail Satan? premiered on January 25 at Sundance Film Festival. The film deftly shows the absurdity in the difference between theory and practice of Satanism. The documentary is a gripping, devilish delight. Viewers are left with a deep sympathy for the human condition. The film puts forward the most important question in the start: what does The Satanic Temple (TST) do? Lane debunks some common misconceptions in the beginning: Satanists do not believe in Satan. However, this so-called denial does not mean they are not sincere in what they do.

Hail Satan? Documentary PosterLane’s film documents the origin and growth of the Salem, Massachusetts headquartered TST established in 2013. Salem is a century-old city made famous by witch hunting during a particularly dark and violent period in the city's history. TST members regard Satan as a kind of symbolic figure who they claim represents free thought and rebellion. One part of their civic engagement is to take full advantage of all available Satanic imagery along with multiple scandalized reactions it gets to advocate for public representation of heterogeneous religious voices and the church-state separation.

Lane asks Hail Satan? viewers as to whether the practice of a religion like Satanism is simply a ploy to banish religion from the public square. The public is divided on this one. A few openly admire TST, claiming its members to be brave and much needed religious liberty champions, but many are angry at the actions of the group as they seem to assault Christianity. The latter also allege that The Satanic Temple tries to silence faith voices with their media stunts.

The Satanic Temple, in reality, is as far from its popular notion as possible. The documentary shows TST doing good work. It pointed out how the organization fought state legislatures regarding the decision to install monuments of 10 Commandments on Capital lawns and abortion laws. They trolled Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. TST members are frequently observed by others cleaning up public places. They also set up drives to distribute women’s sanitary products when they were sorely needed and campaign to protect children from abuse. The Satanic Temple focuses on activism. One of the seven fundamental tenets of The Satanic Temple is:

The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

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