DETROIT — On July 25, the Satanic Temple of Detroit plans to unveil a statue of a pagan idol at an undisclosed location within the city. In response, Detroit’s Mother of Divine Mercy Catholic parish will hold a Mass and Eucharistic Holy Hour on that same day in reparation and prayer for the city of Detroit.
Father Grzegorz Tokarski serves as pastor of Mother of Divine Mercy parish, which is a cluster of three historic churches near downtown Detroit: St. Joseph, St. Josaphat, and Sweetest Heart of Mary. Father Tokarski will celebrate the Mass of Reparation at 10am at St. Joseph Catholic Church, and Deacon Joe Lennon will lead the Eucharistic Holy Hour that follows while Father Tokarski hears confessions.
The statue is a nine-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze likeness of Baphomet, a horned demon who has been associated with the medieval Knights Templar. The demon, depicted in this sculpture as a goat’s head atop a man’s body with horns and wings, is seated with two small children at its side, and is large enough to accommodate adults or children who would like to sit on its lap for photos.
The Satanic Temple originally planned to unveil the monument at Bert’s Warehouse, a popular restaurant and entertainment venue in Detroit’s Eastern Market. After a number of prominent local pastors began a protest movement, the venue’s owner Bert Dearing refunded the Satanic Temple’s deposit and canceled the event.
“Detroit is a very religious area," Dearing said, the Associated Press reported. “When I rented the place, I just thought it was a church. I didn't know about the unveiling of a statue. We weren’t aware they were into devil worshipping.”
Organizers are selling tickets to the private event, and will notify ticketholders of the new location on the morning of the unveiling.
The name “Baphomet” dates to July 1098, when it was found in a letter written by Raymond of Aguilers, who participated in the First Crusade. The creature was frequently associated with the Knights Templar; in modern times, it has been a symbol for the occult and for satanic worship.
In the mid-19th century, an occultist by the name of Eliphas Levi sketched the goat-headed creature as it appears today. Satanists explain that the creature’s binary elements (such as both male and female characteristics, and aspects of both good and evil) represent the “sum total of the universe.”
Originally Intended for Oklahoma State House
According to the website of the Satanic Temple, the statue was originally intended for the Oklahoma State House, where the Satanists hoped to install it beside a display of the Ten Commandments. However, in 2014 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that religious images — including the Ten Commandments — should not be displayed on government property.
Satanic Temple co-founder and spokesman Doug Mesner, who calls himself “Lucien Greaves,” agreed with the court’s decision and explained to the Washington Post, “The entire point of our effort was to offer a monument that would complement and contrast the 10 Commandments, reaffirming that we live in a nation that respects plurality, a nation that refuses to allow a single viewpoint to co-opt the power and authority of government institutions. ... Given the Court’s ruling, TST no longer has any interest in pursuing placement of the Baphomet monument on Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds.”
The Satanic Temple then considered installing their statue in Little Rock, Ark., where lawmakers have approved the installation of a privately funded Ten Commandments display. Greaves penned an open letter to Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Conway, lead sponsor of what has been called the “Ten Commandments Bill.” In the letter, Mesner/Greaves challenged the senator to debate whether the Baphomet monument should also be permitted at the statehouse.
Greaves’ open letter, which was published in the Arkansas Times, said in part, “Many legal scholars agree: once the State opens the door for one public display of religious significance, it’s opened the door to them all. You may argue that the majority of Arkansas doesn’t want a Satanic monument on Capitol grounds. That being the case, should you not be made to explain why you clearly opened the door to our inclusion, or how exactly you intend to keep us out?”
Plans are still unfolding, and Baphomet’s statue may eventually make its way to Arkansas. However, the Satanic Temple decided to unveil it first in Detroit, home to the temple’s first local chapter. The Satanic Temple of Detroit announced the event on its website:
“The Satanic Temple invites you to join us for a night of chaos, noise, and debauchery at The Unveiling, a hedonistic celebration introducing the controversial Baphomet monument accompanied by provocative performances and installations.
“Never before seen in public, The Satanic Temple Baphomet monument is already the most controversial and politically charged contemporary work of art in the world. Weighing one ton and towering at nearly nine feet tall, the bronze statue is not only an unparalleled artistic triumph, but stands as a testament to plurality and the power of collective action. The event will serve as a call-to-arms from which we’ll kick off our largest fight to date in the name of individual rights to free exercise against self-serving theocrats. Come dance with the Devil and experience history in the making.”
What Is the Satanic Temple?
The Satanic Temple is not a “religion” in the sense that its members worship a god. Rather, they are organized as a protest movement against people of faith. In Michigan, where they claim as many as 200 members, they have campaigned actively against Michigan’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They insist that women should have access to abortion and contraceptives, and campaign in support of same-sex “marriage.” They believe that the fetus is not a “person” but is, rather, “tissue that belongs to a woman.” They demand that religious symbols should be obliterated from the public square.
Jex Blackmore, director of the Detroit Satanic Temple chapter, said in an interview with Fox News, “The message behind Baphomet is a reconciliation of the opposites, not this call to arms of one against one, but a merging of the two. That’s part of the reason that it can only exist standing next to the Ten Commandments. That’s part of the message. We wouldn’t want to proselytize as a single voice in the public square.”
The Satanic Temple of Detroit, which is organizing the new installation, describes itself as “a non-theistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights. We understand the Satanic figure as a symbol of man’s inherent nature, representative of the eternal rebel, enlightened inquiry and personal freedom rather than a supernatural deity or being.”
The Catholic Response
St. Joseph Catholic Church, where the special Mass and Eucharistic Holy Hour will be held, is located just across the street from the original site of the Satanic services, near Detroit’s Eastern Market.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, which is part of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish, is located at 1828 Jay St. in Detroit. Mass will begin at 10am, and interested persons can learn more at the parish website, motherofdivinemercy.org.
Teresa Chisholm, a member of the parish and one of the organizers of the day’s events, explained that when the parish learned that the blasphemous ceremony would be held near their church, they wanted to turn to prayer and to make reparation and show their love for Christ.
“We wanted to do something,” Chisholm said, “and the Mass is the most powerful prayer. So it seemed fitting to have a Mass along with confession, to repent for our own sins and to pray in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Confession will take place during the Holy Hour.”
Kathy Schiffer writes from Michigan.
Editor's Note: Teresa Chisholm's quoted comments in this article were amended after publication at her request, to clarify what she intended to say.