During 'black mass' in Oklahoma City, Christians gather outside to pray and sing
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday night outside the Civic Center Music Hall to protest a Satanic “black mass,” many praying or holding signs denouncing the ritual being held inside.
The Satanic ritual organized by Adam Daniels, a devil worshiper from Oklahoma, has drawn the ire of Catholics and religious figures from across the nation and was at the center of a since-dismissed lawsuit from Roman Catholic Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
Coakley directed Catholics to conduct a “campaign of prayer” in response to the black mass after the city declined his request that officials ban the event, which took place in CitySpace, a small theater in the Civic Center basement that holds fewer than 100 people.
Police kept the orderly crowd confined to Bicentennial Park, to the east and across from its small front driveway. An organized chanting of the Catholic holy rosary took place from behind a wall of protesters holding up signs, many of whom were themselves shouting prayers or chants from the edge of the crowd.
At least six Oklahoma City police officers were outside the Civic Center, and walked around on the lawn, standing by when the occasional debate among protesters became too heated. One woman was arrested as she knelt in front of the north entrance clutching a rosary after refusing to leave.
Albert Storz, 44, of Tulsa, walked with determination through the crowd, sermonizing and holding up his Bible.
“Shame, shame on Oklahoma City,” he yelled, his voice hoarse and cracking and his forehead dripping with sweat.
Storz, who described himself as a street preacher who often visits prisons to preach, said he drove down to show his opposition to a ritual he felt was offensive and antagonistic.
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“The Bible says evil prevails if good men do nothing,” Storz said, his breath short from yelling.
“We may be provoking the Satanists, but it’s a whole lot better than standing by and doing nothing,” Storz said. “I’m going to be a light, a voice in the darkness.”
The Lord’s prayer could be heard through a megaphone over the buzz of individual prayers and discussions on the evils that were about to take place inside the center. Small groups led sing-a-longs while others knelt on the concrete in silent prayer, their hands held up towards to sky.
In the hour leading up to the ritual, a man painted red and wearing a black cloak and pentagram necklace made his way to the front steps of the center. The crowd heckled him as he tried to enter the front doors but was told by a Civic Center employee to enter through the side. Police barricaded off the center’s north entrance to allow attendees to enter without confronting the protesters.
“Shame on you, sneaking in the back door like a bunch of cowards,” one protester yelled as the man, who declined to respond to repeated attempts for comment, silently made his way to the side entrance.
Alberto Velazquez, 31, of Oklahoma City, tried to find a ticket to attend the sold-out ritual. Velazquez, a member of the Air National Guard and a practicing Catholic, said while he didn’t agree with the ritual he fought for the freedom of religion as a member of the armed forces.
“I just want to be educated on what they stand for,” Velazquez said.
“I think it’s hard to be against something you don’t understand.”
Many of the protesters said they had driven from neighboring states, mainly Kansas and Texas.
George J. Sieg, 33, a professor who studies secret societies and minority religions at the University of New Mexico, drove from Albuquerque to witness the ritual for academic purposes.
Sieg noted that the ritual had garnered national attention, and he said he came because of the rarity of the event. Sieg said the organizers were trying to revive the oldest form of devil worshipping in existence, and it differed from similar rituals because of its overtly offensive intentions.
“This particular church practices this ritual as a direct attack on God,” Sieg said.
Megan Czaplewski, 25, flew in from Louisville, Ken., to attend the ritual. Czaplewski said she practiced Atheistic Satanism and came in hopes of learning about a different denomination of her belief.
“It’s like a Roman Catholic going to a Protestant mass,” she said. “It’s seeing what it’s all about. I also find it very interesting.”
The event is almost a form of art, said Czaplewski’s friend, Jessica Holbert. Holbert, 25, said she expected to see a large protest, said she was excited to see what everyone was talking about.
“I just think it will be an interesting experience. I mean, when else in my life am I ever going to get to do anything like this?”
Contributing: LeighAnne Manwarren, staff writer