Members of the Church of the IV Majesties, a satanic church based in Oklahoma City, held a satanic exorcism at the Civic Center Music Hall last Thursday night. I’ve photographed my share of protests and rallies around the state—some more emotionally charged than others—but with this one I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew the OKC police department would be organized enough to prevent any confrontations, and they were. Christian protesters were restricted to the east side of the building, while the satanic group entered the building on the north side. What I didn’t expect was the interesting and sometimes odd conversations I had with people on both sides of the Civic Center.
On the north side, I met a girl named Serra, who told me she was a “Traditional Satanist.” She stood near an old pickup truck outside the service entry with a kid who said he was so excited about the exorcism that he had hardly slept for two days. They were waiting for more ticket holders to show up. Serra told me about different denominations of satanism and that she believed Satan was a higher being, but that she had her own faith she was still cobbling together.
I met Anthony, whose father leads a group of lay Catholics called America Needs Fatima. Based in Kansas, they crusade against blasphemy, so they’d driven nearly 6 hours to protest the exorcism. Anthony stood quietly, holding a flag outside the Civic Center. I had a conversation with an atheist who went to the exorcism on a whim; I waited for a woman to stop speaking in tongues so she could tell me her name; and I talked with a comedian who was looking for material for his act.
In the end, I didn’t take the best rally pictures of my career and the evening was fairly uneventful. I’ve seen more emotional scenes at health care rallies and anti-war protests. This job affords photographers who pay attention the opportunity to break down stereotypes, but also to meet the embodiment of the stereotype. You probably would expect fundamental Christians to rally and speak in tongues and carry signs outside the building, but you wouldn’t expect a satanist to be a teenage girl who says “yes sir” and “no sir.” You would expect a media circus around everyone, but you wouldn’t expect the comedian gathering material or the internet-ordained minister dressed completely in black talking about being truly tolerant. And you wouldn’t expect James Hale, the leader of the satanic group, to be the guy most thankful for the attention, but he was.
You can read Carla Hinton’s story about the event by clicking here.