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Satanic Temple holds inaugural convention in Scottsdale

The first annual SatanCon brought out Satanists and protesters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hundreds of people swarmed outside the Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale Saturday, armed with crucifixes, crosses, and signs denouncing Satan. 

"Satan has No Rights," one sign read. "Begone Satan," read another. 

Because across a small parking lot inside the brightly colored hotel, was the first-ever SatanCon, a convention put on by the Satanic Temple. 

"If we don't protest publicly the idea that Satan is in Scottsdale and consecrating Scottsdale, we couldn't call ourselves Christian," Mike McCrory said, holding a sign next to the busy street. 

But according to the Satanists themselves, they actually have nothing to do with "the Devil."

"There's a lot of people that apparently don't think we should be allowed to exist without being protested," said "Minister of Satan," Dex Desjardin. "And honestly, that's their right."

SatanCon has a long history that also has very little to do with Satan. 

Back in 2016, The Satanic Temple of Tucson applied to give the opening prayer at a Scottsdale City Council meeting. They were denied and sued claiming religious discrimination. Scottsdale said it was because, being from Tucson, the Satanists had no link to Scottsdale. The Satanists lost the lawsuit.

Fast forward to Saturday and the Satanists' organized SatanCon across the street from Scottsdale City Hall. 

What happens inside SatanCon? Among the protesters, there was speculation of Satanic rituals and animal sacrifices.

"Absolutely not," Desjardin said. "You'd be amazed, actually, at the percentage of our membership that are vegan."

Inside the hotel, there are no sacrifices (human or animal) and no Satanic rituals. Actually, there's a small market with tchotchkes, t-shirts and even soap (called Beelzebubbles). 

There are rooms for board games, another room for "dark arts and crafts." 

And there are seminars for things like abortion laws, reproductive rights, and the Satanic Panic of the 1970s. 

But no seances inside, and for a very good reason: the Satanists don't believe in Satan.

"Satan is a metaphor for personal liberation, the pursuit of knowledge and rebellion against arbitrary authority," Desjardin said. "Not a literal deity in which we believe or worship."

There are the traditional Satanic imagery of pentagrams and goat-headed demons, but Desjardin said that's mostly "just for fun."

Still, the name alone is enough to get a lot of attention and protest, even if there's no actual devil worship involved. 

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