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While one controversy involving Satanists is going down in Pennsylvania, a different one is taking place in the Gold Coast, a popular tourist destination in Queensland, Australia.

Mayor Tom Tate recently appointed Sue Baynes, an evangelical pastor and his personal spiritual advisor, as the city council’s new “Councillor Advisor,” a title that comes with a taxpayer-funded salary. While one news outlet compared her to Paula White (the Christian preacher who worked for Donald Trump), Baynes suggested her role would be secular. She’s there as a liaison between church groups and people in the city who might need “mental, financial, and emotional” help and are willing to accept religious versions of it.

There are a lot of valid questions to be asked about whether the government should be pushing people toward religious resources at all, and whether taxpayer dollars should be used to pay someone to facilitate that. But setting all that aside, Baynes is a particularly bad choice. She supports the “Seven Mountain Mandate,” a conservative Christian movement that aims to infiltrate every part of society. And earlier this month, Baynes said there was a “demonic stronghold” at the city’s Home of the Arts (HOTA), a performing arts center.

With all that in mind, the Noosa Temple of Satan (not affiliated with The Satanic Temple) decided it would hold a special event inside the prayer room at HOTA in order to reclaim what Baynes admitted was rightfully theirs. (I mean, if it’s a “demonic stronghold,” might as well let Satanists take over the place.)

Here’s what that looked like in practice: The Temple reserved a “prayer room” inside HOTA (which Baynes effectively created) for this Friday so that they could seek “Satan’s presence.”

… Brother Trevor looks forward to officiating at this ritual which will denote the start the weekend’s holy events of restoring our demonic stronghold and inviting back the powers of darkness that were displaced by the recent actions of the Council [by employing Baynes].

Tea and scones will be served afterwards.

Hail the Principalty of the Gold Coast!

Hail Satan!

Clever way to fight back. Baynes claimed there was a spiritual attack on the building, so Satanists reserved the prayer room in that building to make sure her nightmares came true. Real *chef’s kiss* response right there.

In fact, if you read the blow-by-blow of how they reserved the room, it’s downright comical because everything was going smoothly until they said who they were.

Mr [Trevor] Bell, who lives in Brisbane, said he made an online booking and spoke with Ms Baynes over the telephone last week.

“She said the room’s available,” he said.

“She just wanted to know an organisation name that would be booking it and the names of the people attending.”

It was only at the end of the conversation that Bell announced which group he was affiliated with… at which point Baynes couldn’t really say no. She had just said the room was available! But the whole plan hit a snag when Mayor Tom Tate overrode their reservation.

Mr Tate, who had been criticised over the appointment, said the group would not be allowed on council property but should enjoy their time on the Gold Coast.  

“The satans [sic] are welcome any weekend,” he said.

“Being a satan is their democratic right and if they believe they are going to hell, I wish them well on their journey.”

What the hell sort of response is that? Besides reeking of condescension and sarcasm, it sidestepped any legitimate rationale for denying their fair reservation.

Tate later cited unnamed security concerns. The Satanists said on Facebook that this was in reference to “death threats and threats of violence from Christians,” which would be ironic indeed, but the city soon announced that the prayer room would be shut down for everybody:

… after revealing their identity and program of prayers, the group was then told both their access and all general public group access, regardless of beliefs or affiliations, had been suspended.

It’s incredible, in a way, that Satanists simply asked for the same treatment as religious groups and managed to shut down a prayer room because the city didn’t want them anywhere near it. (Hey, it’s still equal treatment. It’s just an idiotic policy.) That also means the prayer room is only accessible to City Council workers… like Sue Baynes.

That’s why the Satanists aren’t done yet. They’re still planning to get together on Saturday afternoon (as they had scheduled) just outside HOTA for a different kind of ritual:

Brother Samael Demo-Gorgon says “It’s insulting and discriminatory to drive out Satanic Spirits while encouraging Christian Spirits”.

“On the 23rd of April at 2pm we will gather together at the Green Bridge and with the help of a Satanic invocation we will call on the Dark Lord to reclaim demonic possession of the Green Bridge and the HOTA facility. We call on all Gold Coast Satanists to join us as we express our right to religious freedom.”

“We won’t be driving out Christian spirits. We are not that mean. We will simply recall our demonic spirits and encourage multi-faith spiritual enjoyment of public space”.

They already notified police about their protest, and they’ve been given the green light to move forward.

They’re going to win this battle in the long-term. The more Christian bigots in government use their power to shut out everyone else, the more fierce the backlash will be.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.