Doug Mesner was born and raised in Detroit. Today, he is known as Lucien Greaves, spokesperson for The Satanic Temple, the group known for converting the ancestors of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps to homosexuality in the afterlife, and for working to build a child-friendly monument to Satan on the State House lawn of Oklahoma City, right next to a monument of the Ten Commandments.
Their mission, “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people” and to “embrace practical common sense and justice,” is guided by their “conscience to undertake noble pursuits.”
How they bring that into the real world is through activism and championing issues including gay rights, women’s rights — and the rights of public school students to refuse to be “hit, restrained, or placed in solitary confinement” by school administrators.
We first met Mesner on a chilly night in Cambridge, Mass. He had already graduated from Harvard University. Today, he travels the country, dodging the evil eyes of Fox News (National) and its cohorts.
METRO TIMES: How did growing up in Detroit influence your religious philosophy?
LUCIEN GREAVES: Satanism has always held a fascination for me. I grew up in the shadow of the satanic panic (of the 1980s). People used to talk about roving hordes of Satanists, as an enormous homicidal criminal cult. I think there were community meetings about it. Church groups were trying to ban heavy metal music and Dungeons & Dragons games — stuff that is outdated now. There was a real push to force people back into traditional, conservative values. People went to prison during that time on supernatural accusations! It was basically a witch-hunt. It turns out it was all based upon lies — a very egregious misrepresentation of Satanists. It was those lies that helped make the Satanists of today. It really had an effect on me, and made me pay attention to it. I was a kid, and it was horrifying.
When I got older, I started researching— where did this idea come from? And I met all stripes of Satanists, from the inner circle of Anton LaVey (author of The Satanic Bible), to the conspiracy theorists who conscribed to the criminal conspiracy of Satanists.
MT: Why did you get involved with the Satanic Temple?
GREAVES: Satan is symbolic of the eternal rebel, opposition to arbitrary authority, and is in defense of personal sovereignty, even in the face of insurmountable odds. It’s the literary Satan of Milton, and the romantic Satan of Blake to Shelley.
Religion doesn’t belong to supernaturalists. To us, we embrace rational inquiry, removed from supernaturalism and archaic, tradition-based superstitions. We actively work to hone our critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things.
I started out really just consulting. We did a rally in support of [Republican Gov.] Rick Scott in Florida, who pushed through a bill that essentially allowed prayer in school. We thought it’d be a good thing for religious diversity — surely Rick Scott meant this only for Christians, but if he opened the door, now the marginalized religions had the chance to come in.
It was after that I became involved full-time as being the face and voice of the whole thing, and it became a full-on organization in an ongoing movement.
MT: TST has done some work on gay rights.
GREAVES: We work on social issues, engaging the socio-political dialogue. One of the things we felt strongly about is gay rights. And there’s been a lot of progress, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder allows his loathing of homosexuals to trump his adhesion to the Constitution. What we’d like to do is school Snyder on the Constitution, and school him on the First Amendment by performing a gay marriage in Michigan. To us, marriage is a sacrament. We recognize it, and we think the state would have to recognize the marriage on religious liberty grounds. Anyone who wants to do that can reach out and have their marriage performed by Lucien Greaves. We look forward to taking on Michigan on the gay rights issue, and bringing them into the 21st century.
MT: Have you had some pushback from the conservatives?
GREAVES: I’ve gotten just so many death threats, I’m just sick of it. It’s distressing in a way, how the Fox News crowd points to me. Ann Coulter tweeted my name. When people throw my name out there, what is their point? What’s implicit in that is a threat.
MT: Anything else you’d like our readers to know?
GREAVES: Tell them I’ll be back. Detroit will come back. And shit’s gonna happen. I know there’s an idiot governor. We’re going to do more in social justice. I urge people to check out our Protect Children Project. I also know Snyder has been trying to make it untenable for women to terminate a pregnancy, and we feel we should protect women from superfluous procedures like the trans-vaginal ultrasound, with religious exemption.
MT: Detroit is waiting.