We may all have differing opinions on the importance of the twitter lawsuit; However, we in The Satanic Temple Arizona Chapter support the mission of The Satanic Temple and the decisions made. We feel that above all else it is vital that we press on and continue to do awesome things in Arizona.
The other night, our Los Angeles chapter, disgruntled by our "choice" in lawyer for our lawsuit against Twitter, decided to part ways with The Satanic Temple, becoming their own entity. Prior to this parting-of-ways, some members expressed concern regarding this lawyer on the grounds that he has defended some odious right-wing characters in the past. This complaint was perplexing to me and, as I explained then, if one needs a criminal defense lawyer, one's going to get a lawyer who's defended criminals. If one needs a First Amendment lawyer, one's going to get a lawyer who has defended deeply offensive speech.Laughably, some concerned well-meaning members asked if we hadn't tried to reach out to the ACLU instead. I explained that the ACLU is no better, as they've defended Nazis, the KKK, the right to display the Confederate Flag, etc. Further, I explained that the notion that we "choose" our lawyers at all is a bit misguided. Many lawyers can't (due to case load or scheduling) or won't (for whatever reason) represent us, and it's very difficult in any circumstances to find pro bono (free) support. When Twitter suspended my account and The Satanic Temple's account at the same time, in an apparent case of Religious Discrimination, the lawyer who's fighting our case now reached out to us offering pro bono support. All we knew was that he was a successful $700 per hour lawyer with a solid history of court victories. That's all that mattered.
However, problems with our particular lawyer seemed to run deeper with some. I got a number of "did you know...?" messages including fun facts such as "he's been on the Alex Jones show?" and, of course, "he even represented [insert name of some alt right villain I've never heard of]?" While trying to be sensitive to these concerns, I also pointed out that none of that was relevant to me. What I know of the lawyer is that he describes himself as a liberal, albeit of the old school ACLU variety. it's quite possible that he's an asshole. It's quite possible that I would disagree with everything else he might stand for outside of our case. He's not a Satanist and he didn't take the time to read and agree with our religious tenets before taking our case. I didn't take the time to learn his politics, and I still don't care what they are. He's not representing our views, he's defending our legal rights in court. He is a tool that has been made available to our enemies to their benefit. If we deny ourselves the same tools on the grounds that they've been used by our enemies, have we not merely forfeited our own fight?
To be clear, we had no other choice in lawyer. It was either this lawyer, or we did not pursue the suit. And while LA, in its publicly-posted parting missive, painted the suit as a personal vendetta of mine against Twitter, the fact is Twitter suspended both my account and the main TST account (for being associated with me) and they did so in response to my asking my own Twitter followers to report a tweet encouraging people to burn down our headquarters. Twitter deemed this "targeted harassment" against the offending Tweeter, and we don't believe for a moment that a call to burn down a Church, Mosque, or Synagogue would be treated in a nearly similar fashion. It feels right to fight for our right to not be openly threatened and harassed on either of the social media mega-giant platforms. To me, it's simply childish and counterproductive to insist that ones lawyer also agree with one's political views, or to insist that a lawyer specializing in First Amendment cases not have represented reprehensible speech. I can't imagine we'd ever pursue any legal remedies at all if we upheld such a standard.
Disturbingly, LA made the claim, publicly, that the lawyer's fees were expending shared resources despite their own unwillingness to retain his services. This is dishonest in many ways. First, the lawyer, again, is pro bono. Second, there is no buy-in for chapters, no dues, and LA had not contributed to our legal fund either way.
Having made a long, dramatic Facebook departure post, the LA split unfortunately caught the attention of a journalist who reached out to me asking what went on. LA also cited a lack of diversity in TST leadership, trying to build a case for our alt right infiltration, among their reasons for leaving. As the London chapter withdrew from TST recently, the journalist asked if their reasoning was similar. (It was entirely unrelated. London disagreed with our demotion of a chapter head who failed to file event forms for approval and decided they could exist without our support.) I explained the separate circumstances to her and she decided to also reach out to Jex Blackmore, who parted from TST probably over half a year ago now.
Jex's circumstance was entirely different from the entirely unrelated departures of LA and London. Jex was a very early high-ranking member of TST who worked closely with Executive Ministry before we had a National Council. She was the one who vetted the first wave of chapter heads, and she was the one who managed membership at-large. When we started our Reproductive Rights campaign, Jex headed that.
When Jex left, I allowed her to claim that she was merely pursuing her own interests. The truth was is that after years of inactivity within TST, Jex held her own public event in which she took to a podium and called for the assassination of the president. Alarmed, Executive Ministry and National Council felt that she had imperiled our organization and made us all vulnerable to potential FBI harassment. Her departure was sad but, given her actions, inevitable. I thought she and I would remain friends.
Today, apparently motivated by the interview request regarding LA's departure, Jex posted a piece on Medium claiming that she too, despite being removed for committing a federal crime, departed TST in despair over our lack of diversity. This claim, coming from her, is outright bizarre. As noted, Jex herself vetted the chapter heads and membership while she was active. If more could have been done to have increase diversity, it would necessarily have had to be done by her, yet she claimed she proposed various ideas for increasing diversity that were summarily ignored.
Incensed, and well aware that Jex's piece was inspired by the journalist's inquiries, I reached out to the journalist and let the journalist know that she could, if she liked, use my email to her as documentary evidence to present to Jex that I had absolved Jex of her Non-Disclosure Agreement for any and all correspondence that would establish that she ever, at any time, proposed any type of diversity measures for the organization. Such correspondence does not exist, as no such proposals were ever made. The claim is an outright lie.
Jex's claims against our current diversity are also perplexing as she has long been removed from any sense of what our demographic is. While she talks about the marginalizing of women (citing as evidence, I, a man, arguing Reproductive Rights in Missouri as the only representative of TST at a University where I, personally, was invited to speak) I believe over half of TST leadership are women, and it's certainly likely that over half of leadership and membership are in the LGBTQ+ community as well.
It is true that People of Color have been slow to embrace Satanism, but the fact that many are embracing Satanism now is solely due to our own influence upon Modern Satanism. When we started this, Satanism was solely the domain of alienated white metal and goth men. Slowly, as people understand what we're about, and they understand the inclusiveness of our community, our diversity is notably expanding.
For some people, acceptance of a slow build in diversity is a complacent passive position that shows a lack of sensitivity toward minority issues. To them, we should be doing outreach. We should be engaging those communities actively and bringing them into the fold. That sounds good on the face of it, but it comes directly into conflict with one of our principles: we don't proselytize. Further, we don't have the audacity to march into minority communities, like evangelical preachers, and tell the people that our religion is right for them. Religion is a deeply personal choice. Far be it from somebody like me to tell somebody of a minority status that they would benefit from compounding that minority status by joining us. I simply don't know their -- or anybody else's -- situation. All we can do is develop and maintain an inclusive environment, and that is what we have done, and that is what we will continue to do.
Jex also made some perplexing claims about financial reporting. Reason Alliance is a 501c3 with public filings, most our campaigns are run through 3rd party sites with specific financial goals and transparent donation accounting, and again, there are no buy-ins or dues. We also always come through on that which we've fund-raised for.
Despite the inaccuracy of the claims and the general failure to support them with anything, some small segment of the social media mob has leapt upon the bandwagon, decrying TST while failing to propose a workable resolution to the non-proselytizing outreach problem.
In all, it's been a disappointing day, but despite the rabble being roused, nothing in our mission has changed. We could
sit back and do nothing, continuously, bypassing our duty to fight for our inclusion because the lawyer isn't right, or I could refuse to debate opponents because I'm too white or male. We could sit back with smug satisfaction and accept second class status just for the fleeting claim of pristine virtuous martyrdom. But I, and TST, have always fought to win -- and when we stand for equality, our victory is meant to uplift all. diversity isn't something we treat dismissively, it's something we value sincerely. As our diversity continues to grow, we happily embrace our expanding family that will find a consistent home with an organization that never trades principles for appearances.
Thank you all for your support."