The Odd Allies in the Battle Against the Usurpers of Freedom

Satanic Temple

In a way, liberty and freedom is the oddest idea present in contemporary thought. Its usage seems to be shared by almost all ideologies, that can be found on our planet. Putting aside the natural use of it in the case of the libertarians and classical-liberals, even their utmost hostile opponents that is all brands of communists have their speeches filled with liberty nomenclature, relating to liberation of the lower social classes. The conservatives loudly proclaim freedom a god-given right, albeit one that has to be limited by the asterisk that “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought ” (Pope John Paul II). A social democrat will enthusiastically redefine liberty as the largest possible set of positive rights, creating a worldview, where the more control a state has over your life, providing you with social welfare at its wish, the more free you are. A nationalist will consider a particular fight for a separate nation-state or its expansion a struggle for liberty with no consideration of whether the new-born entity will actually leave individual citizens greater freedom than its predecessor.

Freedom is downtrodden by all, across the political spectrum. Its meaning altered endlessly, to fit the goals of those dreaming of seizing power, without the slightest inclination that once garnered it should be relinquished for the increase in liberty of the denizens of a particular territory. Redefined into oblivion. Its usefulness in discourse is rendered null. And yet we as classical liberals and libertarians, need to guard it with all our effort and fight the definitional war, as it is foundational to our worldview, unlike any other on the political scene. A defense process that is burdensome, but vitally urgent.

One of the groups whose usurpation of freedom must be countered with the utmost effort are the conservatives, the right-wing, the illiberal side of the political scene. The right is spouting liberty at every turn. Despite that, the worldview it upholds is at its very core statist and tyrannical. The GOP will shamelessly tweet that “Liberty is paramount”, while the war on drugs they support, stifles the utmost basic freedom of Americans to make free choices about their body. The conservative group named “Mom’s for Liberty” will concentrate their efforts on legislating book bans, (as of now not yet advocating their burning, but the sky is the limit here). Donald Trump will speak at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference, even after he showed complete disregard for freedom of movement during his reign.

The Grand Test

While conservatives are well rehearsed on all the vocabulary, that will pull on all the right strings within the soul of a classical liberal, one must not be fooled by such a masquerade. A simple way to test the adherence to any common understanding of freedom in such a case is one proposed by John Stuart Mill almost two hundred years ago.

“Liberty lies in the rights of that person whose views you find most odious.”

And there comes a test for the conservative. A group so odious, few conservatives might have their hearts unfazed at their sight. The Satanists. Specifically, one satanic organization: The Satanic Temple. How do the right-wing stand in the face of such a challenge to their belief in freedom? Well, they become completely unhinged, advocating the utmost violent government crackdown, in large swaths abandoning any pretense about liberty.

The undertaken test shows the conservative hypocrisy pertaining to the use of the First Amendment to advance their religious agenda. The Satanists driven by their non-theistic belief and grouped into a legally registered religion come into the spotlight. They demand rights, and since America is not a theocracy, they have a legal standing requiring the state, to give them the same equal access that has been for years abused by the Christian side, using every opportunity arising to pick apart the wall of separation between the church and the state. The Satanic Temple never seeks special treatment. They simply ask for equal access to privileges that are offered already to the Christian groups in a particular state.

If there is a prayer session preceding every council meeting in a city, then they ask to also be given the possibility of giving a single invocation to their, though only metaphorical, Dark Lord.

If a monument is raised in front of the state’s senate grounds with a creed of the Christian faith, the “Ten Commandments”, then they want to have a symbol of their faith right next to it, which happens to be an 8.5-foot figure of goat-headed Baphomet with two children at his feet and a stunning Iggy Pop torso.

If the Christian Good News Club is granted spaces in the tax-payer-funded public schools, then TST organizes After School Satan Club for children of consenting parents that uses the exact precedent established by the Christian Nationalists.

If Christians decide to display a nativity scene, they offer a Christmas ornament of their own, a sculpture depicting a hand extending the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, with an engraved description: “Knowledge is the greatest gift”.

If, as in the most recent case, a Christian musician turned pastor Sean Feucht is given access to the state building for a performance involving prayer over a republican politician, then they organize a concert of the Satanic Planet in the same governmental venue.

Those interested in further exploration of the group’s beliefs, activism, and legal battles should watch Penny Lane’s documentary titled “Hail Satan?”. The libertarian Reason Magazine rightly titled them the “unlikely defenders of the First Amendment”, as they challenge religious dominance in the public square of one faith. To the vocal anguish of the right. If liberty lies in the rights of that person whose views you find most odious, then the right does not believe in freedom at all. The calls for state persecution of the Satanists stop short of advocacy for their execution for the common good, though this also comes up in a half-joking manner. According to the right, they should be violently eliminated from the public square, their church dispersed and delegalized, and their right to free speech taken away.

No Freedom of Speech for those I want to censor

And this is not just some nitpicking fallacy at work. Plain disregard for constitutionally protected rights is seeped by the most prominent conservative intellectuals. The proud defenders of freedom such as the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles and Ben Shapiro, somehow forget about it, once it has to be granted to someone they happen to hate. “Satan has no rights” proclaim the conservatives en masse. This odd statement is true only on its face, and not the intended meaning. Of course, neither Satan nor God as non-existent imaginary beings have any rights that should be extended to them. But that’s not what Michael Knowles means when he says Satan has no rights. His rants with suggestions for breaching the rights of a religion he happens to disagree with are so strong that he has to put an asterisk that “I am not suggesting that we burn the Satanists at the stake … necessarily {Knowles laughs}” What a joyous man he is!

The mask, also nicely falls off, the once self-labelled “conservatarian”, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who wrote in his article for Newsweek: “The libertarian values of “live and let live” are attractive to many, but there is no room for libertarianism in the face of true evil.” Well, thank you Charlie for showing us which side you are on. And it is the side of advocating for evil governmental violence on peaceful human beings.

Tucker Carlson is also a good example of an intellectual who is undeservingly treated by some of the more paleo-leaning “libertarians” as an ally. He is not one. In his now three separate interviews with TST spokesman and co-founder Lucien Greaves, he clearly positioned himself as an absolute enemy of freedom. The three combative interrogations he conducted, as they can hardly be considered journalism, were spent by him on futile attempts to obfuscate the reality of religious freedom questions at play. In any long-form conversation, his disingenuous machinations would be exposed, in the three minutes of constant interruptions he offered the satanist, to an extent he was capable of deceiving his audience. Many of his followers likely remained with the thought that somehow the Christian privilege he advocates, and the stifling of non-Christian groups with the state Leviathan is constitutional. As he became agitated, he also hurled some classy insults such as telling Greaves to crawl back into his hole.

Ramming Religious Freedom Down Our Throats

What is so great, about this example is that it shows that whenever the right talks about freedom, it is to be understood the way it was absurdly redefined by John Paull II. Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought. Your supposedly god-given rights are subject to limits set by the Christian nationalists. You can do anything you want within the scope acceptable to conservative moralists. This is a tiny slither of all actions that libertarians would consider individuals free to pursue under the non-aggression axiom. The mutilation of the meaning of liberty is especially outrageous in the case of freedom of religion. For the right, freedom of religion does not include freedom from religion, nor any religious viewpoint far more non-traditional than Mormonism or Judaism.

The good thing is the principle proclaimed by Mill is deeply embedded in American institutions, and little can be done by individual politicians driven by the Christian nationalist circles other than slow down the Satanists endlessly through judicial minutia. Courts and government officials do everything to make the legal costs too exorbitant for TST to pursue a particular case. This is a major problem. While the Satanists might be able to garner sufficient financial support to battle endlessly in courts, you should not be restricted in your rights just because your church or congregation cannot afford to pursue everlasting lawsuits. In many cases, such obstacles effectively take away the First Amendment rights of smaller groups. The practical reality of equal access is that it is given to Satanists only after they set aflame thousands of dollars on attorneys for stuff that should be graciously extended to them at mere request. Therefore, a libertarian cannot be deceived by the religious freedom rhetoric, that drives the attempts to pick apart the wall of separation between the church and the state.

Religion can and should be denied as a category from public spaces. There is no more reason for time for prayer invocations to be given during council meetings than for allocating slots for members to sing songs at the beginning of the council meetings. Well, but does not that crush the artistic freedom to express oneself in whatever form one wants through music? — one could posit parroting the Christian demagogues. Denying time for prayer is as much a violation of freedom of religion, as denying time for singing, a violation of artistic freedom. It is not at all.

Overall liberals should use this rising opportunity to advocate limiting public spaces, that could be fuel for such conflicts and displays of any religion. There is no reason to give the state any more area to meddle in, that unavoidably results in religions with all the money and power getting their way. The Supreme Court’s decision to allow religious organizations to fly their flags on a state-owned pole should not be celebrated as a win for religious freedom, as it was oddly by some libertarians, but should be seen as the dangerous opportunity for squandering religious pluralism by the pushiest extremists. The Satanic Temple immediately announced filing a request for access to the flagpole. Their of course got ignored. Can the reader guess which religion ended up having a flag displayed?

What is more than necessary is strong budget cuts around any conflict-generating area. The flagpole was sold, the council meetings stripped of the invocation, and the plots of land with the Ten Commandments privatized. If public buildings have sufficient space for elaborate Christmas ornaments, their use of the area is likely inefficient and should be adjusted. All monuments on public grounds raised in memory of politicians or men considered great should be auctioned off to the highest bidder, whether that be their passionate admirer, who will leave them standing until they are eaten away by rust, or an Antifa member who will joyously smash them with a sledgehammer. Religious content should not be given any platform by the state, just as the political one should not. Out of all the roles usurped by the governments, that of a moral teacher must be the most incredulous.

Beware of false allies, which come to you in liberty clothing, but inwardly they are ravening statists

The case of the Satanists is a useful signal for many different aspects in which the right posits itself as fighter for freedom. While the right-wing for a moment seemed to be keen on free speech in the middle of the Jordan Peterson debacle or the COVID-19 vaccines debate, this is a freedom they are only willing to extend to themselves. To call this hypocrisy is to not say enough. This is a blatant insincere mockery of freedom.

Any alliance with the conservatives in politics is a pact with the devil. Metaphorical one, unfortunately. There is no deeper principle driving their frivolous commitments to freedom, that are then abandoned at first demand of consistent application. This is a very important lesson with crucial consequences for political schemes undertaken by libertarians such as the despicable political strategy of the late Murray Rothbard, or the newer course of the Libertarian Party, which was taken over by a caucus of Mises in name only, as shown by Justin Amash in his libertarian national convention speech. The party was driven so much to the right that the ruling faction now supports candidate presidential nominee Michael Rectenwald, who had tweeted not so long ago that he was brought to tears by a Trump speech. The pact was sealed. What you‘ve sold you cannot unsell.

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