A Satanist organization held its much-talked-about public event at the Civic Center Music Hall on Thursday as a crowd of Christians from various faith communities prayed outside the building.
About 45 people attended the Church of the IV Crown Princes' "satanic exorcism."
Oklahoma City police Lt. Stuart May said he estimated that 75 to 80 people gathered outside the building.
The crowd outside came from diverse faith communities, including Roman Catholic, Baptist and full gospel. Several Christians said they came from other states such as Kansas, Texas and Arkansas to pray for the souls of those attending the Satanists' event and for Oklahoma City as a whole. One man played the bagpipes. Some held signs: "Honk if you love Jesus!" and "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle."
James Hale, one of the leaders of the Church of the IV Crown Princes, said the group sold about 70 tickets to the event. The tickets were sold for $15 apiece. Hale said he was pleased with the turnout, but he thought other ticket-holders didn't show up because of the crowd outside the building.
"I think some got deterred by the protesters," he said.
Civic Center officials allowed ticket holders to enter the building's north entrance about 7 p.m. Thursday. Police kept anyone without a ticket to the event on the east side of the building.
A heavy-metal band performed for about 45 minutes in the Civic Center's CitySpace area where the event was held. When the band finished, Hale and a handful of other people went to the center of the stage area and surrounded a large table. Hale told the audience that they would witness a ritual "blasphemy" taken from the Roman Catholic rite of exorcism.
He told the crowd that their parents probably gave them information about religion when they were younger, "but it's good to get rid of that old garbage that they pumped into you."
Hale told the audience that they were about to be part of a participatory ritual and warned Christians who may have been attending for educational purposes that they would need to be careful during a certain segment invoking Satan because it was unforgivable to do so according to Christian beliefs.
The lights were lowered, and a spotlight shone on the table.
The scent of incense filled the room and a soundtrack featuring cymbals and heavy-metal music played softly as people in the audience looked on intently.
A woman laid on the table, and Hale and six other Church of the IV Crown Princes members, some garbed in black robes, gathered around her and invoked the name of Satan and demons to exorcise Christianity and religion out of her.
"Depart forth in fear from this soul who seeks enlightenment from Hell's power," Hale said.
As one member of the group chanted "Come out Yahweh! Come out Jesus Christ! ... Come out, oh foul holy spook!," other members said "Satan compels you!"
At the end of the ritual, a gong on the table was sounded, and the woman lying on the table sat up, smiled and shouted "Hail Satan!"
An audience member asked during a brief question-and-answer session if the woman was a convert to Satanism.
Hale said that she was not and that the ritual was simply blasphemy.
Richard Ford, 26, of Oklahoma City, described himself as a Satanist. He said he came to the Church of the IV Crown Princes' event to show support for the group.
"I wanted to see what was going on because there's so much cliche here," Ford said. "In Oklahoma, there's a church and a liquor store on every corner. You don't ever hear about other religions."
Another audience member who wouldn't give his full name said he is an atheist. He said he came to the event out of curiosity.
"I find this interesting," he said. "It's a lark."
Controversy arose in September when the public learned that the Satanist group had leased the Civic Center for the event.
At least two church groups obtained permits to hold prayer activities outside the building as the Satanist group gathered.
Velma Brandt, 58, of Edmond, said she was a local member of the national laypeople's group America Needs Fatima. She and other members of the group, from places like Topeka, Kan., and Fort Worth, Texas, prayed the rosary at the time of the Satanists' presentation.
"This is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles," Brandt said.
"I think this (Satanist gathering) is sad."
The Rev. Steve Kern, senior pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, said he was happy with the number of people who came out to pray during the Satanists' gathering. He said about 20 people were part of his group.
Francis Slobodnik, a member of America Needs Fatima from Topeka, Kan., said he traveled to Oklahoma City to lift the city up in prayer.
"I'm a Roman Catholic, and my religious faith is most important to me. Lucifer is the exact opposite of God. God is good. Lucifer is evil," Slobodnik said. "We were horrified about this, and we thought we needed to do something, to take a stand for God and for His right."