IRS recognizes Church of Satan as a religion

By Dave Stancliff
Published: Jul 19 2008, 10:45 PM
Category: Opinion

Let’s get one thing straight right now.

I’m not that old.

When I made my appearance in this world in 1950, Satan wasn’t considered a good guy. Back then he was recognized by Christians as a fallen angel and someone you didn’t want to run into in a dark alley — and who would prod you with a pitchfork if you were bad and went to hell.

Basic religions were a simple enough subject back then. Somehow, 57 years later the subject of religion has taken on a direction that no baby boomer would have dreamed of. Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes the Church of Satan as a religion?

What triggered me to this odd fact was a July 9 article in The Chicago Tribune. The headline read, “In Satanist’s custody battle, law may play devil’s advocate.” Proving truth is stranger than fiction, an Indiana court is looking at a case where an ex-wife is trying to restrict her Satanist husband’s visitation time to allow his three youngest daughters to attend Christian church.

Say what? I can remember growing up and hearing urban legends about Satanist cults, but no one ever seemed to be able to locate their covens. Satanists scampering around in old castles with stone altars in their cellars was the stuff of bad B movies. And no one — let me repeat that — no one knew a Satanist who went to the Church of Satan. Unless, that is, in the ’60s they were one of the original members of the Church of Satan founded by a clown named Anton LaVey who lived in the San Francisco area.

I’m not sure how many people realize this, but the current high priest, Peter Gilmore, of the now Manhattan-based organization (I have trouble calling it a church) claims that Satanists are atheists. Their handouts explain that they see Satan as being a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism.

They even have their own “Satanic Bible,” written by LaVey, who immigrated to California from England (just ahead of the law), where he got his start as a nut who used Satanism as a way to have sex orgies and to declare that it was his religion.

Now modern Satanists have lawyers who argue they are a legitimate religion. When I think about the Satanists’ creed that “Anything goes” and “Do what makes you feel good,” I wonder how safe the children will be with a guy like Jamie Meyer, the plaintiff in this weird case (and a proclaimed Satanist).

Maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. Things have changed in this country and I’ll be the first to admit it. Now it’s OK to do just about anything a person wants. Society today has shrugged off any pretense of morality, as evidenced by what we watch and listen to every day on television and in the movies.

I can remember looking for a supposed group of underground Satanists in Palm Springs in 1991, when I was the managing editor of a group of newspapers in that valley. The local police had a few cases of cats with severed heads said to have been used in some bloody rituals, and they cooperated with me on an article I was writing at the time.

Upside-down crosses in blood on the wall were about all the evidence we could find at the site of the severed heads, along with some black candle wax. I even got an anonymous caller who claimed he knew some of the Satanists, but his information didn’t pan out. No surprise there.

For all I know, those terrible acts could have been done by a group of bored kids, perhaps would-be goths. I’ll never know for sure because the atrocities suddenly stopped when spring break became all the news and Mayor Sonny Bono put his infamous ban on thong bikinis!

Now, 17 years later, I’m reading stories about Satanists in courts. Since when did they become so socially acceptable? I know all about political correctness, but this seems to be something out of the old science fiction TV show “The Outer Limits.”

I consider myself a progressive kind of guy, and while I don’t agree with a lot of the new music today, I’m not such an old fuddy duddy that I’ll call it names. My five grandchildren think “Papa” is pretty cool, but I have trouble with people who celebrate having no rules — especially society’s restrictions — and raising children.

As It Stands, sometimes I wonder what culture shock is coming next; then I realize it’s best not to know or it’ll age me faster!

(Writer’s note: In my last column on air cars, I noted that Tata Motors was coming out with an air car in August this year. This information has changed now to mid-next year, according to Paul Ryan, who runs two Web sites — and — that stay on top of MDI’s doings.)

Dave Stancliff is a columnist for The Eureka Reporter. He is a former newspaper editor and publisher. His e-mail address is

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