On the steps of the historic State Capitol building in Tallahassee, Florida, a handful of citizens wearing hooded cloaks and polyester robes hold a rally in support of Governor Rick Scott’s proposed law to allow prayer in public schools. Chanting “Hail Satan! Hail Rick Scott!” the group’s demonically costumed spokesman announces to a smattering of TV cameras that the Satanic Temple fully embraces the prospective legislation. In truth, however, these media-savvy Satanists are playfully championing religious pluralism while illustrating the hypocrisy of Scott’s actions. The First Amendment prohibits the government from passing any laws “respecting the establishment of religion,” meaning it cannot promote one religion over another, so any legislation opening the door to religious activities in school would have to accept not only Christianity but unpopular religions such as Satanism. Despite the event’s awkwardness and low turnout, the publicity stunt makes national news and launches the recently formed Satanic Temple onto the public stage.
After a hilariously vulgar “Pink Mass” to protest the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church garners the group even more attention, the Satanic Temple officially opens its international headquarters in Salem, Massachusetts. There, less than a mile from the spot where more than a dozen innocent people were executed during the witch trials of the 1690s, the Temple’s enigmatic co-founder, Lucien Greaves, plans the group’s next public action. Joining him as co-spokesperson is Detroit artist and activist Jex Blackmore, who views Satanism as a way to directly confront injustice and corrupt authority throughout the world.
After holding a controversial black mass ritual in Boston, infuriating thousands of Catholics across the city, the Satanic Temple sets its sights on Oklahoma, where a monument to the Ten Commandments has recently been erected on public grounds. Shining a spotlight on this blatant promotion of Christianity by the Oklahoma legislature, the Temple petitions the state to add a seven-foot statue of the goat-headed deity Baphomet alongside the Christian marker. When the legislature removes the Ten Commandments monument rather than install a tribute to Satan on government property, the Temple’s clever challenge inspires hundreds of like-minded people from around the world to join their cause. Within three years, the group’s membership grows from three people to more than 100,000. But with their numbers swelling and dozens of new chapters forming in cities across the globe, increased threats of violence against Satanists and disagreements within the group’s own ranks complicate the Temple’s work. As a complex and costly legal battle erupts over a similar Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas, Greaves, Blackmore, and their fellow Temple members struggle to adjust to the movement’s explosive popularity while maintaining the integrity of their core beliefs.