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NEW YORK – With secularism on the rise in the United States, Satanists increasingly appear willing to challenge Christians for equal time and space in the public square, under the rubric of asserting First Amendment rights of religious freedom.

Now, under the auspices of a student group, Harvard University is going to allow a Satanist group from New York to perform on Monday a Black Mass on campus.

It will take place in the basement of Memorial Hall, despite strong objections voiced by the Roman Catholic Church.

“It’s unacceptable,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights headquartered in New York City told WND.

“Harvard would never allow an anti-gay event on the campus sponsored by an independent student organization and then have Harvard conclude, ‘Well, that’s the way the student’s feel about the issue and we believe in academic freedom.’”

Donahue said that if Harvard doesn’t stop it, the university should at the very least put out a statement condemning the event.

Donohue said he was particularly upset because Harvard’s first reaction was to misrepresent the event.

“Leaving aside the in-your-face assault to the Catholic Church that is being made here, I don’t like it when people lie,” he said.

“Harvard put out a statement initially that made it sound like the controversy related to a controversy over a Buddhist presentation or a Shinto presentation, without mentioning in their statement that it was the Satanic Temple of New York sponsoring a Black Mass on the campus,” Donahue said.

He noted that Harvard then “got so much flack they revised their statement, but they lied again saying the ceremony was meant to be educational.”

“There’s nothing educational about allowing Satanists to celebrate a Black Mass any more than it would be to allow the enemies of Muslims or the enemies of Jews to conduct an anti-Muslim or an anti-Semitic ceremony on campus,” he said. “How about Holocaust deniers? Is Harvard going to give them a forum on campus, too?”

The Harvard Cultural Studies Club, a student group organized under the auspices of the Harvard Extension School, has invited the Satanic Temple of New York City to conduct the Black Mass on Monday at the Queen’s Head Pub, a student eatery and beer hall located in the basement of Memorial Hall, a Victorian Gothic structure built north of Harvard Yard in Cambridge in the 1870s to commemorate Harvard students who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

WND contacted Harvard University for comment and received no response.

“We are hosting a reenactment of a historical event known as a Black Mass,” the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club said in a press release. “The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context and origin of the black mass.”

The Harvard statement denied the Black Mass would include a desecration of a consecrated host, an aspect of the typical Satanic Black Mass ceremony that is widely seen as an attack on the Catholic Church in particular.

“While a piece of bread is used in the reenactment, the performance unequivocally does not include a consecrated host,” the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club continued.

“Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.”

Satanic activists

The Satanic Temple of New York appears particularly determined to promote Satanism under the guise of supporting the First Amendment.

The decision of Harvard University to allow the Cultural Studies Club to host a Satanic Mass on campus follows the continuing request by the Temple of Satan in New York to install their nearly finished seven-foot statue of Baphomet cast in bronze in a place of honor on the lawn in front of the Oklahoma state Capitol, next to a carving of the Ten Commandments that was erected in 2012.

Satanic Temple of New York unfinished statue of Baphomet intended for Oklahoma state Capitol grounds

“Should Holocaust deniers, for instance, be allowed to speak on a college campus?” Donohue asked. “No, they shouldn’t. But there should be a place in our society where they could speak? Yes, in New York, places like Madison Square Garden, Central Park and the Beacon Theater can be open to anyone to speak. But a university is about the pursuit of truth.”

Former Harvard student Doug Mesner, who has changed his name to Lucien Graves in his capacity as a leader and spokesman for the Satanic Temple of New York, told ABC News that the efforts to erect the Baphomet statue on the grounds of the Oklahoma state Capitol reflect an effort by the group to “celebrate our progress as a pluralist nation founded on secular law.”

Graves said: “I would argue that the message behind our monument speaks more directly to the formation of U.S. constitutional values than the Ten Commandments possibly could.”

Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of the ACLU’s Oklahoma state chapter, which is currently contesting in court the Ten Commandments monument on the Oklahoma state Capitol grounds, said the monument should be removed, because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The ACLU has not filed a similar lawsuit against the Baphomet statue.

“I think that our position is there shouldn’t be any religious monuments at the state Capitol, that anytime the government has a monument representing one faith it creates an atmosphere that is not welcoming to people of all faiths or non-believers,” Kiesel told the Tulsa World.

“If, at the end of the day, the Ten Commandments monument is allowed to remain on the Capitol grounds with its overtly Christian message, then the Satanic Temple’s proposal can’t be rejected because it is of a different religious viewpoint.”

Archdiocese of Boston objects

On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Boston asked Harvard to cancel the event, saying in a statement: “The Catholic community of Boston expresses its deep sadness and strong opposition to the plan to stage a ‘black mass’ on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge.”

The archdiocese said that for “the good of the Catholic faithful and all people, the Church provides clear teaching concerning Satanic worship.”

“This activity separates people from God and the human community, it is contrary to charity and goodness, and it places participants dangerously close to destructive works of evil.”

In response to the Black Mass, the Boston Archdiocese scheduled a holy hour beginning Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern Time at St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge.

In its public statement, the Archdiocese of Boston also referenced Pope Francis’ recent warning that Satan exists in the 21st Century.

On April 11, speaking in the chapel of the Vatican guesthouse known as St. Martha’s House, where he resides, the pope discussed Satan’s temptations of Christ.

“The devil tempted Jesus many times, and Jesus experienced temptation and persecution throughout his lifetime,” the pope said, as reported by Vatican Radio.

Francis warned that all Christians today must be aware of the reality.

“We too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness,” Francis said. “But look out because the devil is present! The devil is here … even in the 21st Century! And we must not be naïve, right? We must learn from the Gospel how to fight against Satan.”

Behind the veil of satire

In an interview published in Vice.com July 30, 2013, Doug Mesner claimed the members of the Satanic Temple of New York are Satanists in the traditional sense, who enjoy using the group in a satirical sense.

“Our very presence as civic-minded socially responsible Satanists serves to satirize the ludicrous superstitious fears that the word Satan tends to evoke,” Mesner said.

“The Satanic Temple was actually conceived of independent from me by a friend and one of his colleagues,” he continued.

“They envisioned it more as a ‘poison pill’ in the church-state debate. The idea was that Satanists, asserting their rights and privileges where religious agendas have been successful in imposing themselves upon public affairs, could serve as a poignant reminder that such privileges are for everybody, and can be used to serve an agenda beyond the current narrow understanding of what ‘the’ religious agenda is.”

The ability of the Satanists from Satanic Temple of New York to combine sacrilege and satire in an affront to conventional moral views can be seen in the group’s protest against Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas an unaffiliated church known for its outlandish protests against homosexuals.

Westboro-Baptists.com, a website owned and operated by the Satanic Temple of New York, documented a “Pink Mass” the Satanists performed at the Magnolia Cemetery gravesite in Meridian, Mississippi, of Catherine Idalette Johnson, the wife of Fred W. Phelps Sr., and the mother of Fred Phelps Jr., the Westboro founder.

The Satanic Temple of New York explains on the website the nature of the ceremony performed, noting, “After a “Pink Mass” has been performed, every time a same sex couple kisses over the gravesite, the now-gay deceased is said to be pleasured in the afterlife.”

The group’s website showed photographs of a lesbian and a homosexual couple kissing over Catherine Idalette Johnson’s tombstone, commenting that, “Upon completion of the Pink Mass ceremony, Catherine Johnson is now gay in the afterlife.”

The website of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, titled “God Hates Fags,” has drawn the ire of the LBGT community. The Southern Poverty Law Center, an extremist group on the political left, characterized the Westboro Baptist Church as “arguably the most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America.”

The Satanic Temple of New York is also raising money under the Adopt-a-Highway program in New York City. The group is seeking donations to erect blue-and-white signs “acknowledging the Satanic Temple as the adopters of the designated piece of highway, helping promote a message of Satanic civic pride and social responsibility.”

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