Friday, December 15, 2023

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”


That quotation is often wrongly attributed to Edmund Burke, but its exact source is uncertain.  Nevertheless, it appears to be a universally accepted truth.  If good people do nothing, bad people can get away with far too much.  The definition of "bad men" is, of course, one that encompasses legal as well as moral and ethical issues.  We might say that someone is a bad man, or that something is "bad", but if the law does not define the issue more precisely, it's hard to make that stick.

Nevertheless, good men can still do something, as was demonstrated in Iowa yesterday.

Michael Cassidy vandalized a display put up in the Iowa state Capitol by the Satanic Temple, according to The Sentinel. The display featured a ram’s head on a caped mannequin.

Cassidy took off the ram’s head, tossed it in a trash can, and knocked the statue over. He faces a fourth-degree criminal mischief charge.

“I saw this blasphemous statue and was outraged,” Cassidy told The Sentinel. “My conscience is held captive to the word of God, not to bureaucratic decree. And so I acted.”

. . .

Cassidy said his goal was to “awaken Christians to the anti-Christian acts promoted by our government.”

“Anti-Christian values have steadily been mainstreamed more and more in recent decades, and Christians have largely acted like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot of water,” he said.

Cassidy also argued that the display was not legitimate free speech.

“The world may tell Christians to submissively accept the legitimization of Satan, but none of the founders would have considered government sanction of Satanic altars inside Capitol buildings as protected by the First Amendment,” he said.

There's more at the link.

Speaking as a Christian and a retired pastor, I entirely approve of Mr. Cassidy's actions.  I would have contributed to his legal defense fund, except that it was shut down within three hours due to being oversubscribed.  Clearly, many Americans feel the same as I do about him, which pleases me.

On Tuesday, "Gov. Kim Reynolds called the display 'absolutely objectionable' but said that 'in a free society, the best response to objectionable speech is more speech'."  I agree with him, of course.  Freedom of religion is constitutional, and should remain so.  Equally, Mr. Cassidy is, IMHO, correct that any of the Founding Fathers, confronted with the same display, would do as he did, or take even stronger action.  The Satanic Temple can protest all it likes that it doesn't actually worship Satan as he is described in the Christian Bible, but is rather an atheist organization using that name.  Nevertheless, the generally accepted understanding of Satan in all three of the great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is as the root of all evil, a being from whom grace and goodness are utterly absent.  They need not be surprised if people act on that understanding.

Most of all, I applaud Mr. Cassidy for his honesty.  He acted, then took responsibility for his actions, and is prepared to stand trial for acting on his beliefs.  Good for him!  If his legal defense fund opens up again, I'll be standing in line to contribute.

I've had more than a few encounters with evil during my life.  Some were . . . let's just say they were not pleasant.  The genuinely demonic is not a joking matter.  During my service as a prison chaplain, I met many prison guards and officials who don't believe in God, but emphatically believe in the devil, because they meet his servants behind bars every day.

I ran into more than a few self-professed satanists in prison, too, like the man who demanded that I allow him facilities to hold services for the "Church of Satan (Temple of Set)".  I wrote about him in my memoir of prison chaplaincy.

He leered evilly at me as he made his request, doubtless taking great pleasure in the thought that he could force a Christian pastor to help him set up a Satanic group in prison. He had all the court decisions at his fingertips, too, and was convinced that I had no choice but to assist him.

I did, of course — precisely and exactly as the courts have ordered. I informed him that he’d have to fill out a special form requesting recognition of an unfamiliar religious denomination, complete with documentation concerning its doctrines and beliefs, the physical address of its headquarters (so we could verify its existence) and the names and contact details of its executive officers (so we could approach them to verify his information and confirm that he was, indeed, a member in good standing of this religious organization). If there was no formal organized religion of that name, he’d have to document his religious beliefs and requirements in full and exhaustive detail. (I provided him with examples of the sort of things that courts have required in the past.) We need all that information to verify that this really is a religion and not just another con game. After all, I solemnly assured him, we take such things very seriously indeed.

I also pointed out to this inmate that he was taking a very big risk in organizing such a group. We as staff chaplains certainly wouldn’t do anything to stop him — we understand and respect his rights. We wouldn’t dare ignore judicial precedent and BOP regulations, after all! However, there were a couple of hundred Muslim inmates on the compound, and more than double that number belonging to various Christian groups. Many of them were dangerous criminals (often violently so), and none of them were likely to be well-disposed towards Satanists. He might find himself ‘living in interesting times’, as the ancient Chinese curse puts it, if he tried to proceed with his plans.

He took umbrage at that, and wanted to know how they’d find out about it. I reminded him how hard it was to keep secrets inside our walls, even for the staff, and assured him that they were bound to find out sooner or later. He then demanded that I arrange protection for him. I asked him to recall how many stabbings and assaults there had been on our compound over the past year, despite the presence of guards 24/7/365. Given that reality, how did he expect us to protect him, other than by putting him into protective custody in the [Special Housing Unit, a.k.a. the Hole] on a permanent basis? I also pointed out that for security reasons, no religious ceremonies are permitted in the Hole, so his application to me would be rendered pointless.

He never raised the subject again.

There was also the inmate who believed - mistakenly - in a more direct form of satanic action.

One of the funnier incidents happened in another prison, several years ago. It involved a self-proclaimed Satanist and ‘warlock’. He tried to wheedle me into arranging a number of special privileges for him. I refused, of course — there were no circumstances under which I could justify them. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and tried threats. Those didn’t work either. (When you’ve been threatened by experts, you get used to it very quickly — and he was no expert!) Frustrated, he finally promised he was going to see to it that I was ‘sorted out’. I took this to mean that he would arrange for some inmates to assault me when I was on the compound. I discussed it with the authorities, who tightened up surveillance, and we waited.

It didn’t take long for word to reach us through informers. He’d bragged to others on the compound that he’d cast a ‘death spell’ upon me. He confidently prophesied that I’d be dead within thirty days. I grinned, and carried on as normal. As time passed, his predictions grew louder (and more desperate) as I continued to portray the picture of good health whenever I came to the prison. (I took care to walk around openly, to demonstrate the fact.) As the deadline approached he became frantic, and tried to bribe a prison gang to attack me. Unfortunately for him, gang leaders knew all too well that visiting Chaplains such as myself were their lifeline in the event of family problems. Some of them had needed such assistance in the past. They passed the word that any attack on any Chaplain, visitor or otherwise, would meet with their vigorous and extreme displeasure. The inmates got the message loud and clear. The attempt fizzled, the deadline passed, and I was still alive.

This curse-casting cretin now had problems of his own. Not only had his credibility been shattered by my selfish refusal to fall down dead, but certain over-credulous inmates had taken his boasting seriously. They had paid him considerable sums to cast ‘death spells’ on other convicts and staff whom they regarded as enemies. Since his curse against me hadn’t worked, they were now wondering whether their investment had been well-advised. Sure enough, the deadline for those deaths also passed without so much as a head cold among his intended victims. He ended up requesting protective custody in the Hole, and was eventually transferred to another institution. There were too many angry inmates wanting their money back for him to dare show his face on the compound ever again.

(I hope the Lord will forgive my less-than-pastoral pleasure at his predicament…)

I guess I'll regard the Satanic Temple's propaganda efforts in Iowa with similar contempt.  As for their protestations that they have nothing to do with the "real" Satan . . . if someone tells you what he is and what he believes, particularly by naming himself and his organization accordingly, I advise that you believe him, and act on that belief.  Congratulations for doing so, Mr. Cassidy, and on behalf of all Christians and right-thinking people, thank you very much.



Jerry said...

It's all fun and games until the Satanic Temple decides they need to sacrifice politicians and bureaucrats to Satan. This is a real danger as everyone's life would improve and the Temple of Satan could claim credit.

Plague Monk said...

Many years ago, I was asked to train another employee on the 3D modeling software the client used, Unigraphics. The young man was an avowed Satanist(not an atheist mimicking the devil worshippers), and at the time, I still believed in God, after having been an atheist for many years.

I spent the time needed to bring him up to speed, which surprised him. He was even more surprised when I told another co-worker that during my earlier atheist phase, I had been denied training for a promotion because of my atheism, and wanted to do the right thing by this kid. He thanked me after the training ended, and I moved on to another contract soon after.

Now that I'm back to being an atheist, I don't know whether I would consent to training a believer; I've seen very few of them since getting back to the design field in 2007. At most of the places I've worked since then, having a bible on your desk, or Christian bumper stickers on your car will get you fired or at least a complaint to your contract house.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what he did - I disagree with the punishment.
Courts have said we have the freedom to protest by destroying items such as flags, and some have allowed much, much more.
If any group has a right to put up their items to make a statement, why doesn't he have the right to take them down to make a statement?

Ritchie said...

It might have been appropriate to cleanse the display with fire as symbolic free speech.

Anonymous said...

Legal rules that favor one religion's media dominance over another is 'establishment of religion'. It is not the moral high ground.

Beans said...

Ha. Satanic Atheist? Nope, that's Satanism. Denial of God and idolization of a satanic image is the very definition of satan worship.

Good on the man.

If only more of us would act the same.

Night driver said...

Ah, for the record, gov. Kim Reynolds is a Lady.

Night Driver.

Night driver said...

Have you chatted with Fred, Sometimes known as Lee Lapin and one or two other names. From The High Road I believe.

Feel free to moderate this out of existence.

Fred MIGHT be able to use a chat with his fav Sky Pilot...

Term used as an endearment and not pejoratively.

Chuck Rienzo

(Unable to find another contact method As I said, feel free to moderate this comment to the bit bucket)

David Davies said...

I’m with him. And whoever it was who threw the idol Pachamama into the Tiber.