Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative and a published author of four books. (Read more about him here.)
In an October 9 post on The American Conservative, Dreher alerts us to the alarming news that there are organized satanists in the U.S. Naval Academy.
Founded in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) is the second oldest of the United States’ five service academies, and educates officers for commissioning primarily into the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps.
Dreher reports that an American Conservative “reader affiliated with the US Naval Academy said that people there received this e-mail” on October 8, 2019. Below is a screenshot of the email.
In the interest of legibility, here’s a text of the email that I transcribed from the above image:
Good Afternoon Brigade,
Starting this Thursday, Satanic services will be offered on the yard.
Who: Caters to people who prescribe to the Satanic Temple’s philosophy, however all people of any faith background are welcome to attend!
What: Satanic religious services, discussions of Satanic Philosophy, discussions of literary history of Satan.
When: Every Thursday at 1900.
Where: The Media Room at the back of Stein Hall in the Levy Center
Why: To promote critical thinking and discussion on Satanic values as they pertain to our lives.
How: Just show up!
Please contact Chief [name redacted] with any questions.
The reader said that e-mail set off a firestorm. A few minutes later, the Chief who authored that e-mail sent this follow-up:
Dreher apologizes for the blurry screenshot of the email: “If you are having trouble reading it, the gist is that the Chief is a confessed Satanist, and is inviting others at the USNA to participate in a Satanic ritual.”
The reader who sent Dreher the information wrote that “the Chief” admits he’s a member of the Satanic Temple and gave links to a website that “talks about Black Masses and ‘unbaptisms’.” The reader said that the command chaplain, a Catholic priest, had no idea any of this was going on, and is furious.
On October 11, 2019, Task & Purpose, a military and veteran-focused digital media company, reports that USNA spokeswoman Cmdr. Alana Garas said the Satanic service would not take place because “that email was sent prematurely…without the review and approval of the Naval Academy’s Command Chaplain, as required by command policy.”
Garas said that a group of midshipmen “with beliefs aligned with those practiced by The Satanic Temple” had requested a space for a “study group” to discuss their satanic beliefs — and not, as the email in question indicated, for holding satanic religious services.
As of 2017, the U.S. military recognized 221 distinct “faith groups” from major religions like the Roman Catholic Church and Islam to more arcane and esoteric affiliations like Druid, Troth, Heathen, and Pagan. In January 2019, a group of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis conducted religious services based in Norse Heathenry with the approval of their commanding officer. In May 2019, the U.S. government officially recognized the Satanic Temple as a tax-exempt religion.
Rod Dreher raises these fundamental and very troubling questions about our polity and society:
The matter of Satanists meeting at the USNA raises the broader question of the limits of tolerance in a liberal society. Is Satanism a religion like every other? Theologically, I would say no. But as a matter of public accommodation in a pluralist polity, a liberal one in which there is a formal separation of Church and State, it is hard to see how lines can be drawn to defend society against this evil. The phenomenon reveals the instability at the heart of classical liberalism…. At what point does liberalism cross the line from being a tool that can be used to defend the Good when it has become unpopular, and becomes instead a clear and present danger to the Good?
H/t John Molloy