AMER's POSITION ON...
SATANISM AND THE TEMPLE OF SET
The Alliance for Magical and Earth Religions (AMER) does not endorse the religion, or the rituals, or beliefs of Wicca, Discordianism, Neopaganism, Thelema, or the New Age, or any other Magical or Earth-centered religion. AMER is not in the business of endorsing religions, nor rituals, nor beliefs. AMER is in the business of defending Constitutional freedom of religion from its organized opposition, which AMER calls "the New Witch-Hunt."
AMER has members from many Magical and Earth-centered religions. Many of these differ, one from the other; some can honestly be said o be philosophically opposed. Certainly, the fact that AMER has members who are New Age and members who are Discordian does not imply that there is no difference between Discordianism and the New Age Movement, nor even any link between them other than their common adversaries.
Nevertheless, AMER has taken a great deal of heat recently for admitting several members of the Temple of Set and for electing of the them to the Board of Directors. And so the Board of Directors of AMER as come to the conclusion that it is necessary to clarify AMER's position on the Temple of Set, and on the religion of Satanism.
We will begin by answering a few of the criticisms leveled against AMER by certain prominent Wiccans and Neopagans:
HOW CAN AMER ALLY ITSELF WITH THE TEMPLE OF SET?:
AMER is not allied with the Temple of Set. AMER's Articles of Association and By-Laws contain no provision for allying it with any church or religion. Even if we were so inclined, the Temple of Set's bylaws forbid them from entering into an alliance with any other organization.
However, AMER will not exclude member of the Temple of Set - or any other religion - from it's ranks solely because of their religious beliefs, nor will it bar them from holding offices for such reasons. AMER will admit anyone who sincerely agrees with our Statement of Purpose.
Are AMER's critics suggesting that AMER, an organization which is campaigning against religious intolerance, show intolerance towards a religious belief? Surely we hope not.
THE TEMPLE OF SET WAS IMPLICATED IN THAT CHILD MOLESTATION CASE IN SAN FRANCISCO:
It is true that Michael and Lilith Aquino were accused of child abuse during the 1986-97 Presidio of San Francisco hysteria. However, here are a few important facts about that incident that you might not know:
The initial accusation against the Aquinos was made by an assistant Army Christian chaplain, who saw an opportunity to capitalize on the rumors of "Satanic child abuse" then sweeping the country. The multi-million dollar lawsuit he filed against the government based on his fallacious charges, may also shine light on his motives.
The chaplain's stepdaughter, whom he accused Michael Aquino of raping, was medically examined and verified to be a virgin. In formal testimony she denied every being molested by either of the Aquinos.
The chaplain gave San Francisco police officer Glen Pamfiloff lots of lurid details, supposedly from his stepdaughter, of what would be found in the Aquinos' San Francisco. A surprise raid in force found absolutely nothing in the house matched those descriptions.
During the entire period when the abuse was supposed to have been occurring, the Aquinos were verified to be thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C., where Michael Aquino was attending the National Defense University.
In formal testimony, the stepdaughter was unable to verify any aspect of the story her stepfather had been telling "on her behalf." No evidence was ever produced that a crime had taken place, let alone that the Aquinos ere guilty. No charges were ever filed.
This case has been looked into by the FBI, the Army CID, and the San Francisco Office of Citizen Complaints. All of these organizations found and reported that there was no evidence to link the Aquinos to any crime. The San Francisco OCC went further an issued a formal finding against the two officers who pursued the case, Pamfiloff and the famous "occult crime expert" Detective Sandi Gallant, for their unjustified persecution of the Aquinos and the Temple of Set.
The evidence of the innocence of the Aquinos personally and the Temple of Set as a church in this case is overwhelming. If it is not sufficient, then AMER despairs of any member of any magical religion ever being able to clear himself or herself of any false accusation.
NEOPAGANS AND WITCHES HAVE WORKED FOR FIFTEEN YEARS TO PROVE THAT THEY AREN'T SATANISTS! ISN'T THIS GOING TO UNDERMINE THAT?
We don't see how. AMER isn't a Neopagan or Wiccan organization. AMER is an educational organization.
By now, everyone knows that the American Civil Liberties Union has gone to court many times on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. Yet no sane person has clamed that this *proves* that the ACLU is "the same as" the Nazis or the KKK. Everyone knows that what it proves is that the ACLU believes that if the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly don't apply to everybody, even people with detestable beliefs, then they are not truly Rights.
Representatives of AMER have spoken several times with police officers and members of the press; we have clipping to show that every single one of those people (even the Witch-Hunters!) know and understand the difference between Neopagan Witchcraft and Satanism. Nor were they astonished that an organization which was formed to defend religious freedom would defend both. What did surprise several of them was that any Witches would be willing to defend someone else's religious freedom.
This should serve to warn members of all magical and Earth-centered religions that just because they are victims of persecution, they are not therefore incapable of bigotry, or at least the perception of being bigoted.
And more importantly, the problems that Witches now have have very little to do with accusations of Satanism. The problem that all magical and Earth-centered religions, and in fact all unpopular religions, face is that it is now safe and practical to make wild accusations against any of them, and these smears are widely reported and believed no matter how little evidence is presented. The solution lies not in pushing the charges from one religion to another, but in discrediting those who make wild charges against entire religions without evidence.
WHY SHOULD ANY EARTH-CENTERED RELIGION DEFEND A RELIGION THAT TEACHES THAT MAN IS SEPARATE FROM AND HIGHER THAN ANYTHING IN NATURE? AND WHY SHOULD OTHER MAGICAL RELIGIONS DEFEND THE TEMPLE OF SET WHEN THE TEMPLE OF SET'S CONTEMPT FOR NON-SETIAN MAGICAL PRACTICES IS LEGENDARY?
Members of Earth-centered and Magical religions almost certainly don't want to defend religious beliefs that are opposed to their own. But religious freedom in America is only valid if it applies to ALL religions, including those that some of us don't like. It is the freedom, not the religion, that AMER defends.
WHY SHOULD NEOPAGAN WITCHES (OR NEW AGERS, OR WHAT HAVE YOU) STAND UP FOR A RELIGION THAT ADMITS THAT IT PRACTICES BLACK MAGIC?
Definitions of "black magic" vary too much from religion to religion. To a Christian, it's a prayer to anything other than their God (or the Saints). To a Wiccan, it's anything that hurts anyone or impinges on their free will. So when a Christian prays for his God to smite his enemies, that's black magic to a Wiccan. When a Wiccan prays to the mother for peace, that's Black Magic to the Christian. To a Setian, Black Magic is any use of an individual's will against the inertia of the natural universe - which they do not consider to be either evil or destructive at all.
Some Wiccans, in particular, have told AMER representatives that they would only defend the religious freedom of churches that have a religious prohibition on harming others. AMER recognized no religious prohibitions; nor any religion's dogma. It does, however recognize LEGAL prohibitions against causing harm. AMER will not defend criminal behavior, whether cloaked in "religion" or not. If this is not sufficient for some Wiccans, then so be it.
WHY SHOULD NEOPAGAN WITCHES (AND OTHERS) DEFEND A MAN WHO'S A CLOSET NAZI?
The Temple of Set and Dr. Aquino in particular have often been misquoted and misinterpreted on the subject of the Third Reich, and you will not find a single statement of the Temple nor of it founder which endorses any of the reprehensible practices of Nazism. Neither of the Aquinos are past or present members of any Nazi, neo-Nazi, racist, or otherwise quasi-fascist organization. (As mentioned above, the Temple of Set has no affiliations at all.)
The Temple of Set's literature explicitly condemns the political and social injustices caused by the Nazi regime. The Temple of Set studies occultism from all countries and periods of history, including occultism in Nazi Germany. But studying the history of Nazi occultism no more endorses Nazism that the study of Nazi history in every political science department of every university in the world implies an endorsement by those schools or professors.
Even if they were in favor of some of the philosophy or religion of the Nazis - and they are not - remember that RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS MEANINGLESS IF IT APPLES ONLY TO PEOPLE WHOM WE (OR THE CHRISTIAN MAJORITY) LIKE.
YOU'VE GOT TO ADMIT THAT ADMITTING SETIANS OR OTHER SATANISTS TO AMER IS CONTROVERSIAL. WHAT DO YOU GAIN FROM IT? HOW COULD IT POSSIBLY BE WORTH IT?
First of all, AMER considers the controversy over this decision to be bigoted in nature and AMER has no intention of caving in to anyone's religious bigotry.
But, AMER has gained a great deal by admitting Satanists. First of all, it has gained a great deal of service from two of the most well-educated and literate scholars on the recent attacks on religious liberty that we have ever met. If you have not met the Aquinos nor read their writings, you have no idea how much their scholarship and literary skills surpass the norm, even the high norms of Pagan Rights organization. Their talent is so obvious and so widely regarded that four Wiccans, a long-time New Ager, and a Discordian voted to approve the appointment of Lilith Aquino to our Board of Directors.
Secondly, AMER gains the help of the Temple of Set, a pool of volunteers who have shown repeatedly that they do not hesitate to offer up their time and money to fight for religious freedom.
Thirdly, by extending our hand to these long-persecuted people, we demonstrate that not all Neopagans, Wiccans, New Agers are Witch=Hunting religious bigots; that some of us ask to see evidence before we accuse a whole religion of begin criminal. In light of recent statements and publication from a few Wiccan churches, this is a valuable stand to take.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, AMER gains much-needed additional perspective on religious freedom issues. From its very beginning, AMER has been an eclectic organization. If we are to defend the rights of besieged Witches, Satanists, Neopagans, Discordians, Native Americans, Asatruans, New Agers, Santeros, and the whole panoply of Magical and Earth-centered religions, then we are going to need as many representatives of those religions as we can find because we need to open channels of communication. We need coordinated action. And even more, we need to defend ourselves, whatever Magical or Earth-centered religion we happen to practice, in such a way that we do not tread on the just rights of others.
WHY CAN'T WE JUST LET SATANISTS DEFEND THEMSELVES?
One reason, which concerns us greatly, is that an increasing number of attacks on them are coming from within the Wiccan community. This is (at best) short sighted; if the Wiccans aid in the persecution of another "non-mainstream" religion, they are opening the doors for their own persecution in years to come.
You must also realize that just the Neopagan Witchcraft community, by itself, is estimated to number no less than forty thousand people in the United States alone. No one has a reliable estimate of the New Age movement's many and varied practitioners, but they must number in at least the hundreds of thousand in this country. But the Temple of Set is a much more vulnerable target. Although the Temple of Set does not release membership numbers, the best estimates are that they number less than two thousand world wide.
Right now, the Witch-Hunters are sharpening their arguments and their divisive skills. They are raising public outrage and plenty of funds by denouncing Satanists in general and the Temple of Set in particular. Because of this, the vast majority of the Setians do not consider it safe to let their names be known. This very much hampers their ability to defend themselves, to say the least.
Should the Temple of Set lose to the New Witch-Hunters, despite the fact that no one has yet found even a shred of evidence that they are guilty of any criminal wrong-doing, only because of what other people claim are their religious beliefs, THEN HOW CAN YOU THINK THAT YOUR RIGHTS WILL BE SAFE?
Right now, the Magical and Earth-centered religions are engaging in a time-honored - and self-destructive - tradition: fighting amongst themselves. If we abandon the legally-constituted, law-abiding Satanist churches to our common foes, our own religious freedom will not be safe. To refuse membership in AMER to any individual or organization which ascribes to AMER's Statement of Purpose would be an act of moral cowardice.
To achieve great things, you must remain true to your principles. You must hold the moral high ground, even if it is lonely and cold up there. AMER's members, collectively and individually, are unwilling to make a despicable bargain for the dubious "safety" of dissociation from Dr. and Mrs. Aquino, or any other law-abiding Satanists. AMER believes, as Ben Franklin said centuries ago, that "if we do not all hang together, we shall surely all hang, separately."
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Society of The Astral Star, Inc. / P.O. Box 1482 / Georgetown / KY / 40324
Copyright 1996 by AMER.
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