Satanist Church Rents Out Oklahoma City Civic Center for Exorcism

Satanist Church Rents Out Oklahoma City Civic Center for Exorcism
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The leader of an Satanic church firmly planted in the Bible Belt has raised eyebrows by renting a theater in the Oklahoma City Civic Center for a ritual exorcism of God.

The Church of the IV Majesties is inviting members and the public to view the ritual, in hopes of erasing a lot of the unfounded fears many have about Satanism.

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"We don't kill animals, we don't kill children," James Hale, the church's Lord High Master, told ABCNews.com.

"We just decided that being right here in the middle of the Bible Belt, it wasn't a good idea to keep the secrecy you see in the traditional Satanist churches," he said. "Because secrecy breeds fear. And we're not looking to scare anyone."

Citing concerns for privacy and safety, Hale declined to say how many members the church has besides the seven members who are named on the church's state listing as a tax exempt religious organization, a designation they were awarded this spring.

Those seven members will take the stage Oct. 21 for the ritual, which Hale described as an exorcism to extract the gods of what he called the "right handed path" or traditional religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

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"It's a parody of the Catholic rite of exorcism. It's just a blasphemy ritual," Hale said.

Though the police have been notified of the potential for violence -- Hale said his members and other Church of Satan supporters have received letter bombs and been shot at in the past -- the city is not preparing any special accomodations for the event.

"From a city perspective, this is a first amendment isse," said Jennifer McClintock, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the civic center affairs. "As a public facility we don't deny their right to assemble or deny their right of message. That's discriminatory."

But city officials have started to receive a few e-mails of protest as word of the exorcism gets around.

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"I think a lot of people just look at this as something that they don't believe in," Mcclintock said. "Because they don't agree with the beliefs of this particular group."

Jim Lewis, a leading expert on new religious movements, including Satanism, told ABCNews.com that the Church of the IV Majesties is the first Satanic church he's ever heard of that was persistent enough to achieve tax-exempt status as a religious organization.

He echoed Hale's sentiments that the public has nothing to fear from the church's rituals.

"They're not devil worshippers and they don't go out and kill cats or babies," Lewis said from Norway, where he now teachers at the University of Tromso.

Satanists to Conduct Exorcism at Oklahoma Civic Center

Even McClintock admitted she was surprised to see "Satanic exorcism" on the church's city permit, which cost $260. She visited the church's MySpace page to learn more and found a description matching what Hale described -- a chance to cast out other religious influences.

She and other city leaders are keeping a close eye on blogs, message boards and social media sites and are prepared to take any threat relating to this event seriously, even the most thinly veiled.

"Obviously our first priority is the safety of any of our patrons," she said. "Unless a specific threat were to come forward, we're looking at this as any other event on our calendar."

The theater rented out by the Church of the IV Majesties is the smallest of the civic center's three spaces and holds less than 100 people.

Though most of the civic center's bookings are for performing arts, McClintock said the building has been host to several religious gatherings since it opened in the 1930s, including weddings, conventions and Easter pageants.

Hale, who co-wrote the exorcism and has attended similar private ceremonies, said he's welcoming of anyone who wants to watch, as long as they aren't there to stir up trouble based on their own misconceptions.

"We get a lot of sacrifice garbage," he said of the public's perception. "Satanism is not, does not and has not involved sacrifice."

Hale, the son of an all-faith Christian minister, has been a practicing Satanist for more than 30 years.

Though there are varying threads in Satansim, including some who believe in spirits, all modern Satanists believe in one god -- themselves, he said.

"Satanism is pretty much your own god. I am my own god," Hale said. "We don't worship anyone but ourselves."

Lewis said modern Satanism were born in the 1960s when Anton LeVey took the ideals of the occult and melded them with works from his favorite authors, including Ayn Rand. What started as weekly rituals in his San Francisco home became the foundation for a new movement of Satanists.

But gone was the devil worship many associated with Satanism. In its place, a religion where god doesn't exist but rituals are used to empower the believer.

"They're atheists. They don't believe in an afterlife," Lewis said. "They don't believe in a heaven or a hell."

LeVey, he said, "had this notion that rituals kind of tapped some power in the human being that could help them, influence their lives for the better. He said there's something in the human being that needs ritual."

Lewis said it would be hard to guage the reaction of Oklahomans to the Church of the IV Majesties plans to become a more public presence. Though most Christians are peaceful, Lewis said he does know of professors who have been attacked for simply teaching evolution in the Bible Belt.

"Nobody has to fear these strange powers emanating from the rituals," he said.

Tickets for the Oct. 21 exorcism are being sold for $15 through the church's website and via group on Meetup.com.

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