I’ve heard many discussions about The Satanic Temple’s seven Tenets over the years, frequent among them are conversations on the IV Tenet, “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.” It’s a Tenet that often comes up when discussing free speech and expression. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good discussion about free speech?

As members of a little-understood religion, we can often be ostracized or discriminated against based on what we believe, or the things people assume we stand for. It’s important to be mindful not to do the same to others. With the freedom to offend also comes the responsibility to be mindful of others and to respect their rights and freedoms in a reciprocal fashion.

In the context of being a Satanist, it is important to consider the impact of our actions on the relationships we have with our friends and family. While we may have a right to express ourselves in whatever way we choose, certain choices like deliberately wearing offensive Satanic-themed clothing to events or gatherings where we know it will make others uncomfortable may harm our relationships. It is important to find a balance between expressing our beliefs and values while also respecting the feelings of those around us.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But what about all the crazy, sometimes hurtful, stuff that some people say and do?” And you’re right, there are some pretty wild and offensive things out there. But here’s the thing – while we have the right to offend, it does not mean we should go around being jerks to everyone we meet.

When you couple the right to offend with the second half of the Tenet, which states that ‘To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own,’ you realize the need to balance the freedom to offend with the potential consequences. Unjustly encroaching upon the freedoms of another would mean forfeiting your own freedoms, essentially opening yourself up to the same behavior.

For example, imagine walking into a restaurant wearing a t-shirt with a particularly offensive message – you might get a few chuckles from some people, but you’d also run the risk of being asked to leave by the restaurant staff. In situations like these, it’s important to remember that while you have the right to express yourself, you also have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. So, if you want to wear that funny T-shirt, go ahead – but be prepared to face the consequences if it causes problems. At the end of the day, we all have to navigate the complex web of social interactions and cultural norms, and finding a balance between self-expression and respect for others is key to living in harmony with those around us.

Another example that some of you may be familiar with is a unique protest that the Satanic Temple organized called “The Pink Mass” in 2013. This is an example of using the right to offend in response to offense. The event was organized to push back against the Westboro Baptist Church’s hateful and homophobic protests. During the mass, they performed a ceremony to “convert” the soul of deceased Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps’ mother to homosexuality.

The ceremony, which consisted of two gay couples kissing at the gravesite of Fred Phelps’ mother, and Lucien Greaves draping his testicles atop the grave of Catherine Johnson, allegedly cast an irreversible spell that made the departed Ms. Johnson “gay forever” and perpetually pleasured by same-sex kisses.

The Pink Mass received a lot of media attention and backlash, but they defended their actions as a form of artistic expression and a way to push back against the homophobic beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church. It was argued that The Satanic Temple was using their right to offend as a means of calling out bigotry and intolerance.

Personally, I find their actions both hilarious and admirable. It takes a lot of guts to publicly challenge a group as notoriously hateful as the Westboro Baptist Church. And I mean, who knew that testicles could be used for such a noble cause?

As Satanists, of course, there are times when we find ourselves at odds with social norms and expectations, and that’s okay – after all, we are a diverse and multifaceted group with a wide range of beliefs and practices who have chosen to embrace our rebellious adversarial nature for a reason. However, it’s also important to remember that as representatives of our deeply held values and beliefs, we should also do our best to live up to them in a way that promotes mutual respect and understanding where we can.

Sometimes this means being mindful of the impact our actions and words can have on others, and then striving to find a balance between our individual expression and our obligations as members of a wider community. While the idea of prioritizing respect for social norms may seem counterintuitive to some as a Satanist, doing so can actually be an incredibly powerful way to demonstrate our commitment to our principles, and to show the world that we are more than just outsiders looking in – we are an integral part of the human experience, and we have much to contribute to the world around us.

So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where you could do something that might seem to merit being offensive, weigh things out and remember that it’s not all about being offensive. It’s also about respecting the rights and freedoms of others, while still fighting for justice and equality. And if you can do all that while making a few clever jokes, even better.