Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
In a lawsuit over whether or not a prisoner should be allowed “The Satanic Bible” behind bars, inmate Kevin Halfmann’s attorney argued the book’s violent passages are not really different from similar teachings in the Old Testament and questioned why her client’s religious text is banned if the Christian Scriptures are allowed.
According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Hoffman filed a lawsuit before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson arguing the Illinois Department of Corrections was violating his constitutional freedom of religion by forbidding him “The Satanic Bible.”
The text, published by Anton LaVey in 1969, has been banned in Illinois prisons for over 20 years because of its potential to incite violence, state officials claimed in court.
Terri Anderson, who oversees appeals in the grievance process for the Department of Corrections, affirmed the book seems to encourage “hatred and violence.”
For example, twisting around Jesus’ teaching to “turn the other cheek,” “The Satanic Bible” declares, “A Satanist practices the motto, ‘If a man smite thee on one cheek, smash him on the other!’ Let no wrong go unredressed.”
But Halfmann’s attorney, Samantha Unsell, likened the text to Exodus 21:24, which states, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
The Exodus passage specifically refers to a man who strikes a pregnant woman and injures the baby, the “eye” referring to the unborn baby’s eye.
Anderson, however, reportedly conceded the point that texts from several religions could be used to incite violence.
Halfmann, who is serving a sentence at the Centralia Correctional Center for predatory sexual assault, testified that he needed “The Satanic Bible” to practice his religion, which he described as a form of atheism centered around “self-happiness.”
“With Satanism, there ain’t no sin,” the inmate said.
And while repeating the usual swearing-in process, the Post-Dispatch reports, Halfmann questioned repeating the phrase, “so help me God.”
“My mistake,” the judge responded.
An attorney for the state, however, argued that denying Halfmann “The Satanic Bible” didn’t prohibit the inmate from practicing his religion, but that “this book is inconsistent with prison interests,” citing, for example a chapter on human sacrifice.
“Honestly, I don’t even remember that chapter,” Halfmann testified.
“He isn’t seeking candles and medallions, he just wants the book,” Unsell said in her closing argument, assuring that her client interpreted “The Satanic Bible” metaphorically, not literally.
Nonetheless, Judge Wilkerson didn’t buy the argument, upholding the ban on the “The Satanic Bible,” the Post-Dispatch reports, “due to the security risks involved.”