While the documentary's director appears to take the temple at face value, its history includes parody, discussions about its sincerity, and inflammatory claims to have a consecrated Host from a Catholic Mass in its possession.
Among the Satanic Temple's earliest events was a January 2013 demonstration at the Florida state capitol appearing to support Republican Gov. Rick Scott from a Satanist position. Legislation backed by the then-governor would allow school districts to have policies allowing students to read "inspirational messages" of their choice at school assemblies and sports events.
The demonstration featured an actor in the role of a satanic high priest. Several would-be minions and spokesman Lucien Greaves were also at the rally, saying the law would allow students to distribute Satanic messages.
"This is not a hoax. This is for real," Greaves had said ahead of the 2013 event.
That same month, the Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog reported that Lucien Greaves was listed as casting director of a feature film called "The Satanic Temple." A casting call on the Actors Access website sought actors "to be the followers of a charismatic yet down to earth Satanic cult leader," required to wear "tasteful Satanic garb."
"Spectacle Films and Polemic Media … are producing a mockumentary about the nicest Satanic Cult in the world," said the casting call, according to the Huffington Post.
The Satanic Temple was behind a reputed attempt to hold a black mass on the campus of Harvard University in May 2014, but the event was moved and then cancelled after intense outcry from Catholics and others who saw it as a grave sin against God, deliberate provocation of Catholics, or a violation of basic norms of civility and respect.
The event was reported to be held under the aegis of the Cultural Studies Club of the Harvard Extension School.
A spokesperson for The Satanic Temple initially told media outlets that a consecrated Host would be used, although the temple and the Cultural Studies Club both later denied this, insisting that only a plain piece of bread would be used.
Shane Bugbee, an early collaborator of the Satanic Temple, told a version of the group's history at the Vice magazine website, and then a more critical version in an interview with the Village Voice and related blog posts in 2014. He said that Lucien Greaves is in fact Doug Mesner, who reportedly studied at Harvard University, focusing on neuroscience and false memory related to ritual abuse and alien abduction.
Bugbee himself had interviewed Mesner for the website Vice, an interview published July 30, 2013.
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Bugbee named Cevin Soling, president of Spectacle Films, as the real man behind "Malcolm Jarry," the pseudonymous co-founder of the temple. According to Bugbee, Soling was president of the Harvard Extension Cultural Studies Club at the time it attempted to host the black mass. Bugbee alleges that David Guinan, owner of Polemic Media, was a third co-founder of the temple.
Claiming a long history with Satanism, Bugbee himself said he and his wife held the final interview with prominent Satanic figure Anton Lavey, who allegedly made Bugbee a Satanic priest. He contended that Mesner is an employee of Soling and that Soling asked Bugbee to play the role of Lucien Greaves.
Bugbee said he at first saw the Satanic Temple as a prank, believing it was "thrilling" to participate in "a joke on the public at large and, in general, the grossly inept media."
He said the group's purpose seemed to shift after the fake rally for Rick Scott.
"The dissolving of the original idea of making a mockumentary and the rise of a want for a real religious sect seemed to happen very quick," said Bugbee.
He objected that Soling and Guinan had "no real relationship with Satanism."