The Devil Went Down to Annapolis

The United States Naval Academy is granting Satanist midshipmen a “study space” in which they may conduct “Satanic services” and study “Satanic philosophy,” according to a leaked email. This was not the first time I heard of this news, as Rod Dreher had previously documented the story at The American Conservative. The latest revelations of the administration potentially granting midshipmen the right to practice this pagan-Masonic religion provokes me to express my thoughts for the moral welfare of the Brigade of Midshipmen.

According to their website, the Satanic Temple’s mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.” Glancing over the mission, it is difficult for one to discern if what the Satanic Temple promotes is at all diabolically opposed to the good of society. Nowhere does it state that the organization worships Satan or supports evil causes.

One will find it hard to criticize such an anodyne mission statement. Upon further examination, it is relatively easy to discern that the Satanic Temple does indeed worship Satan. “Rejecting tyrannical authority” does not entail rejecting a system of government that resembles the Leviathan as devised by Hobbes and Rousseau, which imposes an absolute general will on the populace. The “tyrannical” authority in this context is the one true God, as professed by the Christian faith. This God limits human freedom by preventing man from pursuing what seems good for him according to man’s own self-created image. What greater threat can exist to mankind than a God who dictates a divine law that binds human freedom?

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In the last few words of the mission statement, the organization promotes the pursuit of noble endeavors guided by the “individual will.” This sounds rather similar to the belief of the Church of Satan, with which the Satanic Temple claims it is in disagreement: “Our position is to be self-centered, with ourselves being the most important person (the ‘God’) of our subjective universe, so we are sometimes said to worship ourselves.”

For the Satanist, the human person is freed from submitting to the will of its Creator, becomes the sole arbiter of what is right and wrong as long it does not infringe on the welfare of another, and eventually evolves to its own enlightened deity. Individual sovereignty is the holy grail because it rejects conforming to the will of a higher authority and ultimately to divine revelation. My point is that one does not need to worship in Satanic rituals for one to be called a believer in Satanism. Satanism is ultimately the worship of oneself and declaring that God is dead and I am god.

The question today is whether organizations—such as the Satanic Temple—that profess a false moral ideology be given the same treatment as any other religion on college campuses. Fortunately (or unfortunately, rather), the question is already answered for us by the federal government. In April 2019, the Satanic Temple was officially recognized as a church and enjoys the same tax-exempt status and access to public spaces as other recognized state-defined churches.

They can claim that any measures that “prohibit the free exercise” of this newly established church violate the First Amendment, and a strong argument can be made in support of their legal defense. Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves even told Fox News: “Should the religious liberty of [our] members within the [Naval] Academy ever be impeded, the Satanists will pursue litigation.”

If the legal path is pursued, the Satanic Temple will have the right to be granted a room to conduct Satanic services and for midshipmen to study Satanic philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy due to the recently approved law. With this in mind, is the debate over? Is the fight for the Good, True, and Beautiful finished at the academy? The burden now lies with the administration—and, more specifically, the Naval Academy’s Chaplain Center—to determine the fate of public morality at this once morally sound institution.

There are only two possible outcomes. The first is the midshipmen involved with the Satanic Temple will freely practice and actively promote the good which is in direct contradiction to God’s first law: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The second is the prohibition of Satanic services and a First Amendment case against the Academy.

If the Naval Academy chooses the former, the institution will have abandoned the central tenet of its mission: to develop midshipmen morally, in the way the founders of the academy envisioned. The institution will no longer be able to provide the moral compass that is oriented towards the Highest Good. Virtues will become vices and vices, virtues. Only punishment in the form of demerits, and not an ingrained sense of right and wrong, will deter a midshipman from violating the honor code. What remains of the moral law will lose all its credibility.

If the latter is chosen, a lawsuit will be brought against the administration. Faithful chaplains of various Christian denominations will resign or be excused from military service for speaking out against Satanic ideology. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Satanic Temple, and its allies will attempt to vilify and ruin the image of the Naval Academy. And this would only be the beginning. One can say that the future does not look too bright.

Let us heed what Augustine defined in The City of God as a community: “A ‘people’ is an assembled multitude of rational creatures bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love… the better the objects of this agreement, the better the people; and the worse the objects, the worse the people.”

The administration must ask itself if Satanic services or black masses will truly better the Brigade of Midshipmen in their moral character. If they answer No—as I hope and pray that they will—they should prohibit such activity and prepare to defend their rightful position, even if the obvious legal outcome is defeat.


  • Francis Lee

    Francis Lee is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. He has served on two deployments in the South China Sea as part of Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan. His writing has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Catholic World Report, and OnePeterFive. The views expressed are those of the individual only and not those of the Department of Defense (DoD).

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