Documentary looks at Satanism and its fight for religious freedom

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And now, for a reasoned debate on America's separation of church and state, comes "Hail Satan?" 

Director Penny Lane frames her smart, level-headed documentary as a discussion about the Satanic Temple and its fight for religious equality. 

Satanism, its followers contest, is not all about listening to black metal, throwing up devil horns and angering the establishment, although that certainly is a part of it. 

Rather, it's about exploring a counterbalance to Christianity. As one follower explains, atheism is boring and unorganized, and is defined by what one doesn't believe, rather than one's beliefs. 

It's not all smooth sailing, of course. Satanists consistently face oppression, sometimes from within their own ranks; "Hail Satan?" shows how Jex Blackmore, the founder of the Satanic Temple of Detroit, was excised from the religion for her extreme calls to action, including advocating for the execution of the President. (Blackmore wears it like a badge that she was kicked out of Satanism for being too radical.) 

"Hail Satan?" uses the erection of a statue of the dark deity Baphomet as its central argument. Lucien Greaves, the spokesman and co-founder of the Satanic Temple, wants the statue to stand counter to a memorial of the Ten Commandments placed at the state capitol of Oklahoma, and later Arkansas.

The argument is a simple one of the separation of church and state: if a monument to Christianity can be placed on government grounds, why not one to Satan? It's an epic troll job, but it works because it's rooted in reason and common sense. The same can be said for "Hail Satan?" 

'Hail Satan?'

GRADE: B

Rated R: for graphic nudity, and some language

Running time: 95 minutes

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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