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Arizona State Sen. Juan Mendez during the Senate Government Committee hearing on whether to ban satanic displays on public property in Arizonascreenshot / video

(LifeSiteNews) – Arizona Democrat state Senator Juan Mendez welcomed satanists to the legislature on February 7, proclaiming through a large white COVID mask that he and his colleagues were “graced” by the presence of “ministers and members” of the Satanic Temple.

The satanists were there to testify before a Senate Government Committee against a bill introduced by Sen. Jake Hoffman, the Reject Escalating Satanism by Preserving Essential Core Traditions, or RESPECT Act. It would have banned “Satanic memorials, statues, altars or displays or any other method of representing or honoring satan” from being erected on public property. All committee members present that day minus Mendez voted in favor of the bill, but it ultimately failed when two Republicans voted with Democrats against it.

“The Temple practices non-theistic satanism divorced from superstition without any belief in gods or devils,” Mendez gushed. “They practice the religious values of compassion, justice, bodily autonomy, free speech, science, humility, and noble action.”

READ: The Satanic Temple sues Texas for regulations that ‘interfere’ with their abortion ‘destruction ritual’

As LifeSiteNews has reported, the Satanic Temple (TST) presents itself as an atheistic, non-religious organization that doesn’t actually worship the devil. TST engages in various stunts such as erecting statues of Baphomet on public property, hosting “after-school Satan” clubs in elementary schools, arguing for a “religious liberty” right to abortion, and agitating for the LGBT cause. TST says it embraces Satan’s name as a “symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority.”

The group says on its website:

We do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions. Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse.

Yet the group simultaneously promotes “ritual abortions” and “unbaptism ceremonies.” It also says on its website, “The Satanic Temple does not have any required rituals, but some members choose to participate in rituals that they find personally meaningful” and admits one such ritual is a “Black Mass,” which the TST says is “a celebration of blasphemy, which can be an expression of personal liberty and freedom.”

“As an organized religion, they actively do outreach and community service and participate in public affairs where their issues – where the issues might benefit from their rational, satanic insights,” Mendez continued. “The mission of the satanic temple is to encourage (benevolence) and empathy among all people. They embrace practical common sense and justice. They are guided by their conscience to undertake noble pursuits that fulfill their religious values – again, particularly of compassion and free speech. I welcome them to the floor today and we’ll hear from them later on in government committee. Thank you.”

Sen. Hoffman: ‘Abhorrent and disgusting’ that Americans can go to jail for knocking over satanic memorial, but no consequence for filming gay sex in US Capitol room

During the committee hearing, Hoffman defended the constitutionality of the RESPECT Act, arguing that Satan himself is not a “religion” and that the bill would simply ban displays honoring the devil on public property.

“It is a desecration of our public property in the United States of America and in the state of Arizona for a satanic display, memorial, statue, altar, to be on public property,” he said.

READ: Trump says Arizona went ‘too far’ in reviving near-total abortion ban, will be ‘straightened out’

“It is legally and constitutionally suspect to argue that Satan, someone who is universally known to be an explicit enemy of God, is somehow a religion,” Hoffman said. “That is just an absolutely ludicrous statement to make.”

“The antithesis of religion is Satan,” Hoffman told Mendez early during the hearing. The bill is communicating that lawmakers respect the people of this state and reject escalating satanism, Hoffman emphasized. Mendez argued it unfairly targeted satanism.

A number of TST members and supporters visible on the recording of the committee meeting were still wearing COVID masks, and Mendez kept his on during the hearing, too.

“We do and have already been performing satanic rituals on public property. For one, my wedding happened in Catalina National Forest,” Oliver Spires, who identified himself as a “satanist” and minister with the TST, testified. “We’ve been participating in Tuscon in the all souls procession and we have and do use an altar during that procession.”

At the end of the hearing, Hoffman said that the real threat to the First Amendment is the aggressive atheists at organizations like the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

“They send cease and desist letters to pastors who might be asked to come open a meeting with prayer – a prayer whether it be in Allah’s name or Jesus Christ’s name – but they send cease and desist letters to try (to) prohibit free speech,” he said. “The people that this audience are cheering on are the ones trying to infringe free speech. This happened to me. I was gonna pray at the East Valley Prayer Breakfast. And guess what, I sure as hell did pray at the East Valley Prayer Breakfast because you will not trample my right to free speech. But your right to speak is very different from your ability to post an altar to Satan on public property.”

Hoffman concluded, “You know, I find it ironic that in Iowa, you can knock over a satanic display and you go to jail for that but yet at the U.S. Capitol you can have a gay sex orgy in a government building and there is zero consequence. That is abhorrent and disgusting. In Arizona I am going to fight to make sure that we do not have satanic memorials and altars and displays honoring Satan on public property. With that, I vote aye.”

In December 2023, the Satanic Temple of Iowa set up a statue of Baphomet in the state capitol after receiving permission to do so. A Navy veteran who previously ran for Congress in Mississippi destroyed it and was charged with a hate crime for doing so.