Late Sunday evening, Lucien Greaves, spokesman and co-founder of The Satanic Temple (TST), tweeted that the organization would be "taking legal action" against Netflix's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for "appropriating our copyrighted monument design to promote their asinine Satanic Panic fiction." Sabrina is Netflix's rendition on an Archie Comics classic, following a half-witch, half-human teen as she balances a life battling her religion's overbearing, bullying ruler, Satan, as well as jocks at her mortal high school who, like the Dark Lord, are misogynistic bullies.
In an emailed statement to Broadly, Greaves said that "one of the central missions of The Satanic Temple has been to fight back against witch-hunts and irrational mob panics," adding his view that there are "signs of a Satanic Panic revival today, and as Satanists we need to do all we can to fight back against negligent and harmful representations." According to Greaves, TST would be pursuing a copy right claim regardless of how Satan was portrayed in Sabrina. In a separate statement sent to Broadly, TST co-founder Malcolm Jarry stated that, "If a resolution cannot be worked out, we will take aggressive actions to protect our copyright."
"We hold a copyright that was filed with the Library of Congress," Jarry explained. "Statues and their subsequent representations are protected. In fact, the US Postal Service had to pay a hefty fine for their unauthorized use of the representation of a statue—ironically, a representation of the Statue of Liberty."
The Satanic Temple is a religious organization that has positioned itself as a legal advocate against the placement of religious statues on public property, as well as issues related to bodily inviolability, such as women's reproductive rights. In 2012, Oklahoma installed a six-foot tall statue of the Ten Commandments outside the Statehouse. In response, TST announced plans to "erect a monument glorifying the Dark Lord," to stand beside it. TST then created a statue of Baphomet "sitting beneath an inverted pentagram and flanked by two children gazing upward in loyalty" and argued that if the Christian church is entitled to display a religious statue, so are Satanists. TST won that battle when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments monument "violated Oklahoma's constitutional ban on using public property to benefit a particular religion."
In Netlix's Sabrina, the Baphomet figure also represents Satan, a villainous entity the teenage witch battles against throughout the series. In the Academy of Unseen Arts, the school for witches depicted in the show, there is a prominent statue of Baphomet, which some media outlets have previously stated looks a lot like the statue created by TST. Both statues feature Baphomet in a seated stance, with two adoring children—of similar appearance—looking upward. (Notably, neither of the statues depict Baphomet with breasts, though the popularized image of the goat-headed figure originated in an 1856 illustration by occultist Eliphas Lévi, clearly shows a creature with exposed breasts. Lévi described his androgynous Baphomet in Transcendental Magic—regarded as the first published treatise on ritual magic—writing that "humanity is depicted by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.")
According to Lisa Soper, the production designer of Sabrina who spoke with VICE about the statue in an interview conducted before Greaves tweeted about taking legal action, the show's statue was not modeled after TST's. "I think that's kind of a coincidence...," Sopher said. "When you look at Baphomet, there's really only a couple of statues of him—which, they have their statue, and we've got our statue in the show."
"If you look at Goya paintings, if you look at a lot of the tarot cards, or the Alistair Crawley iterations of him—because there's hundreds and hundreds of iterations of him, he's always seen with his people around him and it's more of like a father figure kind of thing. So depicting his children with him, that kind of stuff, and those kinds of elements are all kind of the same," Soper said. "But it's no different from, in my opinion anyhow... from any other of the mass amounts of iterations of him that have been around."
Though Baphomet is a cultural figure that's been depicted for more than a century, Jarry tells Broadly that TST's depiction is "very distinct and has numerous prominent features that do not exist in any prior representation." Adding, "Our depiction of Baphomet is wholly original. I cannot compare ours with all previous depictions."
"Our lawyers sent a letter informing the show that they have violated our copyright in using our own central image as an icon for some evil cannibalistic cult," Greaves said. "Obviously, the nature of the copyright violation could be considered defamatory." He adds that the TST was never contacted by anyone involved with the Netflix series regarding the statue. "Our answer, given how the image is portrayed in the show, would have been 'no.'"
Broadly has reached out to Soper and Netflix regarding the TST's claims. They have not immediately responded. We will update this story upon a response.
VICE's Kara Weisenstein contributed reporting to this piece.