Last week, members of the Satanic Temple in New York traveled to Meridian, Missippi to perform a “Pink Mass” ceremony at the gravesite of Catherine Johnston, Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps’ mother, claiming their actions cast an irreversible spell making Ms. Johnston “gay forever.”
This week, police in Meridian issued an arrest warrent for Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves, charging him with “desecration of a grave.” Queerty had an opportunity to chat with Greaves, who was the officiant of the “Pink Mass” ceremony last week. He’s currently back in New York.
We spoke to him over the phone, and got his personal take on the situation, as well the Satanic Temple’s official stance on gay marriage, and whether they raised the funds needed to participate in the Adopt-A-Highway Program.
Thousands of people have now seen your genitalia draped atop the grave of Catherine Johnson.
Well, I might feel a bit differently about it if the feedback hadn’t been so positive. But as it stands, I can’t help but feel pretty good about the whole event in general. We’ve gotten letters of support from people of multiple religions, even established Christians.
It seems like there has been a lot of support, but there’s also been some backlash, particularly from the cemetery owner and from the police in Meridian, Mississippi. Were you expecting this?
Absolutely. I mean, think of what we did. Of course this is going to offend the sensibilities of some people. This was a targeted gesture, of course, towards Westboro Baptist, but it’s going to carry over to people who have similar opinions, or hold some kind of supernatural belief that the cemetery was wrongly spiritually desecrated.
We have no ill will towards the people of Meridian. In fact, we ran into locals there who were very nice.
Police have said you violated “the moral decency of a human being” and have issued an arrest warrant for you.
I really don’t expect that we’ll have to put much or any effort into these claims. We left the cemetery exactly as we entered it. So “desecration” here is, I think, being contorted beyond recognition.
You’re not too worried then?
I don’t think the Mississippi air force will be flying overhead in New York, or that New York will extradite me all the way to Mississippi for a minor misdemeanor offense.
How do you respond to Westboro spokesman Steve Drain saying, “I don’t care whether you’re dancing on a grave, in a hot air balloon, or standing on Mt. Kiliminjaro, homosexuality is a sin. And the punishment fixed for that sin is the death penalty.”
It really makes no sense to say that the wages of this sin is death when the subject we’re talking about is dead. It makes me think he didn’t really understand the situation or he didn’t have the mental capacity to grasp what this story was or what the interviewer was asking him. That’s an answer they apply to everything, and doesn’t really say anything to the idea of the “Pink Mass,” or what that means when somebody is imbued with a post-mortem sexual conversion.
What is the Satanic Temple’s stance on gay marriage?
We’re all for it. Absolutely. It’s to each their own to follow their own path to happiness so long as it doesn’t encroach on other people’s freedom or sovereignty. The idea that gay marriage can’t happen is to encroach upon the pursuit of happiness of gay couple’s who would be married.
Which is, I think, an interesting statement to make just because so many people associate a Satanic Temple with evil and danger, but really what you’re preaching is love and acceptance and tolerance.
Yeah, but I think there’s a value in doing it in the name of Satanism, too, because it forces people to reevaluate the arbitrary labels we sometimes put on things. I actually have a long background in studying witch hunts and the idea of Satanism and, in honesty, Satanism is just that: an idea.
When you go back to Old Testament times up to modern history, what we think we know about Satanism is always something manufactured by people more of the Westboro church camp than actual people practicing Satanism.
It’s no different from this idea of the “gay agenda” being like a cult that seeks to convert otherwise straight children into this doctrine of homosexuality. It’s all that same mindset. It’s all that same narrow view that it’s us against them. And I think it’s very important to throw this out into the culture, and force people to judge people for their actions and the actual substance of what they’re saying, rather than their superstitious fears.
Obviously we play with misconceptions in such a way that will jar these people into, hopefully, reevaluating whether we’re really this sinister cult of homicidal maniacs, or if we’re having a laugh at their expense.
The most common misconceptions that are going to be applied to us are the misconceptions that are applied to Satanism in general, and that being that there is legitimacy to this idea that there are roving hordes of Satanists conspiring in the background with mobile crematoriums and inserting subliminal messages in music.
You mean you’re not out drinking beer, corrupting youth, and performing human sacrificial ceremonies?
It’s just not happening. The real enemies in this situation, if we need one, are the witch hunters who insist that we are. They’ve done more damage than anybody.
I’m curious, did you raise enough money to participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program?
Unfortunately, the amount of attention we’ve gotten for this hasn’t translated too impressively into funds for that campaign, while we have been getting a number of messages since the arrest threat from people wanting to contribute to the legal fund.
My final question for you is: What do you think Catherine Johnson is doing right now?
Coming clean on the supernatural perspective: I don’t believe in it, so I believe she’s long dead and this had no effect on her. And if she were alive, I never would have pulled her into this so it could torment her in any way unless she was working for and endorsing Fred Phelps. The message clearly was for Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.