Satanic Documentary Shown at Local Theatre Ruffles Religious Feathers

Photo: Magnolia Films

By Lauren Bray

A new documentary exploring the Satanic Temple and its followers has debuted at the Riviera Theatre, much to the dismay of a local religious leader.

“Hail Satan?”, directed by Penny Lane that premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival, follows The Satanic Temple’s origins and grassroots political activism. Lane aims to show these Satanists as hard-working activists striving to preserve the separation of church and state in the face of religious hypocrisy.

In a recent review, The New York Times described The Satanic Temple as “basically the Yes Men with an ethos, using humor and outrageous behavior to call attention to hypocrisy, particularly when it comes to incursions of religion into the public sphere.”

The film’s trailer focuses on the State Capitol in Arkansas where a Christian Ten Commandment monument was erected on government land while Satanists counterargued for an eight-foot statue of the goat-headed deity Baphomet, for equality’s sake. 

On Monday, Santa Barbara International Film Festival Executive Director Roger Durling sent out his weekly email detailing new films at the Riviera Theatre. 

“‘Hail Satan?’ is a richly entertaining film on the Satanic Temple’s exploits. This light-footed movie challenges our preconceived notions of its subject with a smart, witty and at times hysterical dispatch from the front lines of the fight for social justice. You might think you may be watching a Christopher Guest mockumentary,” wrote Durling.

Father Larry Gosselin of Old Mission Santa Barbara wrote to Durling asking that the film be removed and not shown in our community, as reported by KEYT.  

“Without knowing this film personally, I feel I can safely and assuredly say, that the foundational aspects of this movie, and all that it represents, has its source in the powers of darkness.  From my standpoint, as a religious leader, I have first-hand experience in dealing with those involved and influenced by satanic worship.  I can assure you, that unless one has seen the effects that this involvement does bring onto those, who even innocently dabble with “powers of darkness,” one has no idea what destructive outcomes can, and will, ensue with the ignorance of what may be seen initially to be enticing and innocent, at first sight, the effects are not innocent but gravely harmful,” wrote Gosselin.

He continued by stating the film will be “greatly devastating” to the community which he says is based on his personal experience with “what lies in darkness and its power.”

The film will continue to show at the Riviera Theatre through Thursday with additional screenings on Saturday and Sunday.

In the meantime, no one tell Father Larry about the new Sabrina the Teenage Witch series on Netflix, this updated and darker reboot will not be his cup of tea.

Lauren is a member of the Dedicated Staff of She believes in equality for all, the first amendment, and the separation of church and state… so she might be a “Satanist.”


Written by lauren

Lauren is the Publisher of She enjoys short walks on the beach, interesting facts about bees, and any kind of homemade cookie.

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  1. The Satanic Church recently was given tax-exempt by the IRS and recognized as a Church like other religious institutions…The Satanic Church has just as much right to exist as any other faith. I am a Pastafarian myself in my off time I enjoy listening to Black Sabbath….

  2. On the contrary our Souls have been scorched by the Catholic Church and their stand on Child Molestation! and The So Called Christian NAZI party of America with their UNacceptence of Human Beings Unlike themselves…Everyone is different yet some of us are not allowed to Coexist unless we drop our drawers and turn the other cheek or hate our brothers and sisters who are different than ourselves…Satanists are a refreshing faith to Coexist with those of us who accept them. It’s your choice, Ramen.

  3. Larry, by your own admission you have no knowledge of what this film or group is really about. I would strongly suggest that before requesting that something be banned you first have some awareness of the subject.
    Please watch the film and review the seven fundamental tenants of The Satanic Temple. If after that you still have an opinion to share I would be very open to hearing it.
    Having been raised Catholic but having also long since found that group out of synch with my views and beliefs I am open to other perspectives.
    I saw this film and found it more hopeful than all the sermons I listened to as a boy growing up.
    Thank you Roger for bringing this film to Santa Barbara. I for one greatly appreciate that you did.

  4. {Gosselin} continued by stating the film will be “greatly devastating” to the community which he says is based on his personal experience with “what lies in darkness and its power.” ————HAHAHAHAAAA! Oh, my sides! The good padre needs to look no further than his own church to find “what lies in darkness and its power.”

  5. Larry seems to think that this movie is about an organization that worships false deities, believes in supernatural evil, corrupts society with archaic dogma and seduces our youth into wildly inappropriate behavior. That movie is called “Spotlight”.

  6. Wow some of these comments really explain why we are in such dark times. More importantly, this post smacks of mocking this priest who probably most – including Ms. Lauren of Edhat – don’t even know very well if at all, and who probably do way less for this community than he does. Such disrespect and meanspiritedness, so much for allowing others their views. I won’t miss Edhat – it’s been behind the news anyway – we’ve had several events here involving police and nothing on here – Roger sleeping at the wheel I guess – wasn’t even on the Scanner Reports. The lightning/thunder the other night didn’t even make it on here until the next day – KEYT and other outlets were on it, including the Palm – he reported on what was going on here too. Nothing to miss here! Edhat is slacking off and if this constitutes news well, time to say bye Felicia!

  7. You won’t be missed. The dear father opened himself to mocking ridicule when he commented publicly about something which he had not even seen firsthand. That would be like me railing against the local mission church for their years of institutional physical and sexual abuse of young boys, harboring of known pedophiles, or obstruction of justice by destroying and concealing evidence, without having experienced it myself. Oh, wait…

  8. As far as other News Outlets getting the story before me Very Good that was my goal from the beginning of my writing for Edhat that the news outlets would get a move on and put out news that wasn’t being mentioned. Those other News Outlets have real journalists The Palm is the greatest and a very nice guy….I like what I do I like being the little guy I don’t mind being last and after all these years as I slow down I have nothing to be ashamed of I did good, I did a good thing in my life and I don’t need any ones approval…

  9. “But in the end one also has to understand that the needs that religion has satisfied and philosophy is now supposed to satisfy are not immutable; they can be weakened and exterminated. Consider, for example, that Christian distress of mind that comes from sighing over ones inner depravity and care for ones salvation – all concepts originating in nothing but errors of reason and deserving, not satisfaction, but obliteration.” ~Frederich Nietzsche

  10. Good for you I come from a catholic family of saints some of them committed federal fraud in my name to the tune of 393,000.00 dollars when I was a juvenile in a coma others condemned me and threatened me when I turned them in. They tried to have me committed Thank the Good Dog for honest Doctors not all of them take pay offs….Close friends of mine were molested right here in Santa Barbara by the priests I think Catholics are bullies and they have no right to put down Satan. Satan never committed federal fraud in my name tried to have me committed or molested anyone I know of. Ramen Live and Let Live.

  11. Gosselin has given us a close-minded, reactionary response without even seeing the film.
    How about if the community overlooks this error in exchange for keeping him off the Fiesta Pequeña stage. We cringe annually hearing his giggling about “flamingo” and his mispronouncing so many names.
    And what is up with dissing the Riviera Theatre in the comments? We can now enjoy a greater variety of indie and foreign films year-round than before; sometimes it’s good to venture beyond the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

  12. Father Larry,
    Except for your highly obedient parishioners, these days
    most people feel the catholic church should stop their rampant pedophile priests from molesting kids.
    Or at least after they do, put them in jail instead of transferring them to a distant hunting ground.
    Let’s make that a priority before you start a 2nd career as a film critic.

  13. Celeste – How are online comments in any way inhibiting your freedom to worship?
    Destruction of church property is abhorrent but perhaps somewhat understandable if you for one second think about the victims of your church’s crimes.
    You are somehow overlooking years of systematic abuse and cover ups, not some vague historical wrongs or crimes committed far away and long ago but here in your own town in your lifetime to children in your community!
    The more people that remind you that you are a dues paying meter of a pedophile cult the better.
    Lecturing people about intolerance when this entire thread is in response to your beloved priests idiotic ramblings about a film he has not seen, perfectly sums up the blindness of your faith.

  14. Of course Satan lives. And always will. Life is always about the transcendent choice between the dark or light forces at play within one’s own human nature. Satan can be creative but chaotic ferment bubbling from within. Choice channels and funnels this primeval force into life-affirming good.

  15. From what I can infer, Fr. Larry wrote a respectful, personal letter to Roger Durling who then contacted John Palmintieri in order to publicize the private letter. Did Durling respond to Fr. Larry prior to contacting Fr. Larry and discuss this? Did he inform Fr. Larry that he was going to scamper to John Palmintieri? Why did Durling feel (always “feelings” involved) he had to publicize this? Obviously, for publicity to make himself feel good and encourage the mob to denigrate Fr. Larry. This is the problem with society today. Quite frankly, the behavior of Durling has exposed more about his flawed character in this little episode than he could have ever realized.

  16. I can’t believe all this “anti-Satan” rhetoric on here. Just some fictional guy dreamed up to counteract heaven and God (he may be fictional too). Maybe Father Larry should see the film before denouncing it. Sounds to be a movie is totally different from what the priest thinks it is. Don’t judge a movie by it’s title.

  17. “Without knowing this film personally, I feel I can safely and assuredly say, that the foundational aspects of this movie, and all that it represents, has its source in the powers of darkness.”
    Father Larry say basically, not only “I have not seen the film personally”, bit he admits he doesn’t even know what it is about, save the title, upon which Fr. Larry does not speculate as to the natre of the film, but guarantees and safely assures whomever is listening to Fr. Larry that “all that it represents, has its source in the powers of darkness.” How would Fr. Larry know that if he didn’t even know what the film is about? His whole speil about his knowing what Satan does to people and its affects, and how this film is going to be “greatly devastating to this community”. I call BS. No film abot anything is so powerful as to “devastate” a community Hyperbole much, Father larry? I’d be more inclined to at least give you a listen if you had actually seen the film.

  18. Disclosure: I am attend Sunday Mass at the Old Mission, a parishioner there for 20 years now. Disclosure: I am a First Amendment person. I understand that Freedom of Speech also includes the right to be confronted by offensive speech. Watch the Public Comment at City Council meetings: THAT’S when I cherish the First Amendment most. I have stood firm for that right and been assailed for it, too. So, I do disagree with my beloved priest in this instance. But I am posting here because what I have read in the various comments disturbs me greatly. We in this country debate openly and vigorously about the issues, including the above. However, these days civil discourse over civic matters has been replaced by personal attacks and just plain vitriol. Ignorance and cruelty. Perhaps those tactics are acceptable on the middle school playground; or on the bloodied streets of Venezuela, places that do not have a Constitution such as ours. Such tactics have no place here, in America. Furthermore, you folks write about First Amendment, Freedom of Speech, and so forth. What about Freedom to Worship? My beautiful church has been desecrated several times over the past months. Horrifically. Those were cowardly and vile acts against a religion, the definition of a hate crime. How would you like to enter your own church or synagogue, only to see red paint splattered across the baptismal font at the entry? The statue of a beloved saint, beheaded and covered in red paint? Separation of Church and State actually means the freedom to worship freely. The Founders were most fearful of the imposition of a state church — the Church of England, for example — that would persecute all other faiths. Many of our earliest ancestors to colonial America sought refuge on these shores for that very reason, including my own colonial ancestors. Today, we again see the resurgence in the persecution of particular religions, right here in America. Poway. When you attack a religion, even in a comment section of an online local newspaper, you sow the seeds of intolerance yourself. God Bless my beloved priest.

  19. Here’s the beautiful thing about philosophy over religion; I don’t have to agree with EVERYTHING the person said or did (because they are a fallible human, not a representative on Earth of a “perfect” god). And the argument that “he died mad” is a take on an ad hominem logical fallacy; the truth of a statement stands on its own, regardless of who said it. Maybe our dear Father at the Mission should take a look at his “church” buggering little boys (among COUNTLESS other atrocities for hundreds if not almost 1000 years) first before pointing his finger at others. Its my opinion, but religion is outdated and useless in a world based on science and knowledge. Its very telling that Adam’s “sin” was eating from the Tree of KNOWLEDGE. Actually a bit of a precient Freudian slip, if you ask me… Ok, back to my hole. 🙂

  20. As a christian I would STILL see this film and I will always stand up for freedom of speech and religion, whatever your religion may be. Censorship is not cool. Leave the film alone, let people see it if they want to. And while you’re at it, stop trying to ban abortion too.

  21. I appreciate your comments and respect your stand on a lot of things (you were my English teacher the last year you taught at SBCC), but I have to disagree with parts of your statement. You say “What about Freedom to Worship? My beautiful church has been desecrated several times over the past months. Horrifically. Those were cowardly and vile acts against a religion, the definition of a hate crime.” What about what the Catholic Chuch (and SPECIFICALLY J. Serra) did to the Chumash culture and religion? We still have a street called “Indio Muerto” for goodness sake. Then you state “When you attack a religion, even in a comment section of an online local newspaper, you sow the seeds of intolerance yourself.” So how is one supposed to express that what your beloved church does is WRONG? Here’s an old debate I highly recommend you watch, to understand WHY people are so opposed to your Church and everything it does and stands for: If you can’t click the hyperlink, go on Youtube and search for “Intelligence Squared: Is teh Catholic Church a force for good in the world?” It may shed some light on the situation for you. I agree in freedom of worship, just as I do the freedom of expression. And acts that break the law (like vandalism and mass shootings) are not to be tolerated. But worship and expression are NOT guaranteed to be free from analysis and ridicule. Especially (in the case of religion) if either purports to come from an infalliable, omnipotent, omnicient god who “loves you”, but will torture you for all eternity if you don’t grovel before him like a louse.

  22. Totally disagree, Factotum. I have seen some wonderful films there recently, from WOMAN AT WAR, to, RBG, to ROMA to many others, the programming has been imaginative, bringing interesting films we would not otherwise have a chance to see. …btw, it’s a privately-owned public space, as are the Metropolitan Theatres.

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