No, the US Naval Academy isn't offering 'satanic services' — but not for the reason you think

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The seals of the U.S. Naval Academy (left) and The Satanic Temple (right)

The U.S. Naval Academy has a message for the burgeoning satanists in its ranks: you can study Satan as a midshipman, but you sure as hell can't hail him.


An internal email sent to USNA midshipmen on Oct. 8 and posted to the popular Instagram account Drunk Old Grad the following day appeared to announce that "satanic religious services" based on the philosophy of The Satanic Temple would become available to the student body that week.

But according to a USNA spokeswoman, that email was sent prematurely.

"This email was sent without the review and approval of the Naval Academy's Command Chaplain, as required by command policy," USNA spokeswoman Cmdr. Alana Garas told Task & Purpose in an email. "It did not represent the U.S. Naval Academy's Command Religious Program."

According to Garas, a group of midshipmen "with beliefs aligned with those practiced by The Satanic Temple" (which the U.S. government officially recognized as a tax-exempt religion in May of this year) had requested a space for a "study group" to discuss their satanic beliefs — and not, as the email in question indicated, for holding satanic religious services.

"The USNA Command Religious Program provides for the exercise of diverse beliefs," Garas said. "Arrangements were being made to provide the Midshipmen with a designated place to assemble as chaplains facilitate for the beliefs of all service members."

The problem with the request isn't the focus on, well, satanism: it's that The Satanic Temple in particular represents, as Garas put it (emphasis ours), "a non-theistic religious and politically active movement," the type of which U.S. military personnel are broadly forbidden from engaging with.

"The Command Religious Program at the Naval Academy facilitates the opportunity for the free expression of diverse beliefs, but without endorsing any particular belief, [and] Midshipmen have the right to assemble to discuss their beliefs as they choose," Garas said. "But, to be clear, in accordance with Department of Defense Policy, military members will not engage in partisan political activities, and will avoid the inference that their activities may appear to imply DoD approval or endorsement of a political cause."

As of 2017, the U.S. military recognized 221 distinct "faith groups" from major religions like the Roman Catholic Church and Islam to more arcane and esoteric affiliations like Druid, Troth, Heathen, and Pagan.

In January of this year, a group of sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis conducted religious services based in Norse Heathenry with the approval of their commanding officer.

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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

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