Meridian Star

Local News

July 23, 2013

Charges filed in cemetery incident

MERIDIAN —     Bill Arlinghaus, owner and operator of the Magnolia Cemetery in Meridian, confirmed Monday a charge has been filed and a warrant issued for the arrest of the reported leader of a group who a week ago conducted a satanic "ceremony" on the grave of someone interred at the cemetery.

    Lucien Greaves, of the Satanic Temple located in New York, is now charged with desecration of a cemetery.

    "I signed the charge this morning," says Arlinghaus as he stood outside his office at the cemetery located on 23rd Avenue. "There has been a warrant issued on the one charge we thought pertained to this incident. There may or may not be more charges coming in the future."

    The charge of desecration of a cemetery is a misdemeanor. Arlinghaus doubts Greaves will be arrested and brought back to Meridian to face the charge.

    "About ninety-nine and a half percent sure there will never be an arrest in this case but the charge and the warrant is there nonetheless," Arlinghaus said.

    Members of New York's Satanic Temple, said to have been led by Greaves, traveled to Meridian a week ago Sunday to perform a ritual they call a "pink mass" in retaliation to the Westboro Baptist Church at the gravesite of Catherine Johnston, the mother of the church's founder Fred Phelps Jr.

    "I was actually traveling from Michigan when this happened," Arlinghaus says. "By the time I got home in Meridian they were probably already back in New York."

    Arlinghaus said he found out through social media the group had performed the Satanic ceremony.

    "I own the land, so it is my private property. I would not have granted permission for this to occur," Arlinghaus said.

    The ceremony involved two same-sex couples kissing over Johnston's grave. They then declared Catherine Johnston a lesbian in the afterlife, according to reports. The ceremony was meant as an act of love and not hate, according to reports. The group's members reportedly want to celebrate gay love since the Westboro Baptist Church is known for its intolerance of homosexuals.

    Arlinghaus isn't buying that.

    "You travel a thousand miles to come to a place and do this type of act on a person's grave and you claim it is for love? These people are hypocrites. There was nothing but hate behind this," Arlinghaus said.    

    According to the Satanic Temple website, the Westboro Baptists, famed for their bombastic “God Hates Fags” anti-homosexual activism, raised the ire of the Satanic Temple in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. The idea for the Pink Mass ceremony and website came after the WBC members were threatening to protest the funerals of the bombing victims.     

    “Members of The Satanic Temple were in Boston, waiting for them, but they failed to show," Greaves states on the website. "Later, the WBC issued a statement that they had been present ‘in spirit’. We decided that a same-sex couple celebrating ceremony at the gravesite of Fred Phelps’s mother was an appropriate way to meet the Westboro Baptists, ‘in spirit’, but this time on our terms."

    Attempts to contact a spokesperson for Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas were unsuccessful Monday afternoon.

    Arlinghaus said the grave site was not damaged and that additional security measures to better monitor the grounds have been implemented.

    "I consider this to be sacred ground, not satanic ground," Arlinghaus says.

    Arlinghaus said if anyone has more information that may add to the incident they are encouraged to contact Arlinghaus at 601-483-4225 or the Meridian Police Department.

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