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Anti-Satanist hate crime in Queens:
Let's be glad the police ARE taking this seriously!

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2005 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

  1. Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  2. Personal note to Daniel Romano
  3. Thursday, January 13, 2005

  1. Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  2. On Sunday, June 9, 2005, a 20-year-old Satanist named Daniel Romano was assaulted with a metal pipe by two thugs in Maspeth, Queens. The police are treating it as a possible hate crime, according to news stories published today in the Daily News (reprinted on Yahoo) and Newsday (another copy here) on Wednesday, January 12.

    The Daily News story reports that Peter Gilmore, high priest of the Church of Satan, responded by disowning the young Satanist, ridiculing his gothy appearance. Yeah, like Anton LaVey looked perfectly normal and respectable.... Not!

    In my opinion, all local Satanists - and all people of all other religions minorities too - should be very glad that the police ARE taking this case seriously, regardless of what we may think of black nailpolish, and regardless of what we may think of hate crime laws.

    There are good reasons to have some reservations about the very idea of hate crime laws in the first place. (See, for example, Hate Crimes and Individual Rights by Richard E. Sincere, on the Independent Gay Forum website.) The reason why we have hate crimes laws is because many police departments used to look the other way when the victim of a crime happened to be a member of an unpopular minority. But, instead of imposing extra penalties for hate crimes, it might be better - or at least more in keeping with the First Amendment - just to require police departments not to give lower priority to hate crimes than to other types of violent crimes or harassment.

    Nevertheless, if we are going to have extra penalties for hate crimes, then they should indeed be applied to hate crimes against all categories of people who may be hated on grounds of race, religion, or whatever - including and especially those who are most hated, such as Satanists.

    Some details of the story are murky. For example, the Daily News reports that Romano claimed to be a member of the Church of Satan, whereas Gilmore is reported to have said that Romano is lying about this. However, such apparent discrepancies do not necessarily indicate that either side is lying. There could have been a misunderstanding somewhere, for all we know. (For example, perhaps Romano claimed only to be an adherent of CoS-style symbolic Satanism without having yet paid the $200 to become an actual CoS member?) Reporters are far from infallible. Time will tell.

    So, let's not rush to judgment about whether Romano is lying. Let's wait and see.

    Anyhow, a crime is a crime, regardless of the character of the victim - and certainly regardless of the victim's clothing or nailpolish. Please, everyone, let's NOT be like the butch gay activists who used to feel embarrassed about drag queens.

    The good news is that the police are taking seriously a crime against a Satanist. In a world where religious minorities do face plenty of real discrimination, that's very good news indeed.

    On the News & Views page of the Daily News website, a poll asks, "Should the attackers of a Satanist be charged with a hate crime?" As of mid-afternoon, the results were: Yes 70%, No 30%, total votes 523. Later in the evening: Yes 69%, No 31%, total votes 641.

  3. Personal note to Daniel Romano
  4. To Daniel Romano, if you happen to read this:  I'm appalled that Peter Gilmore apparently saw your misfortune as just another opportunity to bash goth fashion. I'm sure that was the last thing you needed to hear right now. Anyhow, I'd love it if you could join us in one or more of the Theistic Satanism forums. (If you regard Satan as only a symbol, then the most appropriate forum for you to post in would be T-S-a-o.)

  5. Thursday, January 13, 2005
  6. Yesterday evening, Newsday published an update, Satanic church snubs battered teen Then, today, Newsday published an overlapping story, A Satanist shunned).

    Here, Daniel Romano claims to be a "card-carrying member" of the Church of Satan. (To any reporters who might be reading this:  Perhaps you might ask Romano to show you his membership card?) It has occurred to me to wonder whether Romano might be just a card-carrying member but not an active member, thus not someone whom Peter Gilmore knows personally, that being the reason why Gilmore can't "vouch" for him. I'm under the impression that the Church of Satan carefully screens applicants for active membership, but not those who just pay $200 for a membership card.

    In this story, Peter Gilmore sounds a little more reasonable than he did in yesterday's Daily News story. At least, in the Newsday update, he didn't ridicule Daniel Romano's physical appearance. Gilmore is quoted as saying, "I don't know the guy. I can't vouch if he is a Satanist or not. He might be somebody that's out for publicity." Gilmore added, "Anybody who says he's a Satanist, and is not a member, we don't support. How can we? There's a lot of crazy people out there."

    Romano evidently didn't want too much publicity, if indeed he wanted any at all. That very same Newsday story reported that Romano "spent part of Tuesday in a bagel store in an effort to dodge a TV news crew in his neighborhood." Gilmore's speculation that Romano might just be "out for publicity" was in remarkably poor taste, and is yet another thing Romano certainly didn't need to hear while recovering from being hit on the head with a pipe.

    Anyhow, as Gilmore correctly notes, there are indeed a lot of crazy people out there, some of whom call themselves Satanists. However, the question of whether Daniel Romano is a "legit" Satanist really shouldn't be the main focus here.

    I myself certainly don't know enough about Romano's personal concept of Satanism to know whether I would approve of it or not. But then again, his attackers probably didn't know a whole lot about it either. To his attackers, I'm sure it didn't matter in the slightest whether Romano's form of Satanism was legit by either the Church of Satan's or anyone else's standards. He was attacked because he was perceived as a Satanist of some kind, period.

    Anyone who is openly a Satanist could be attacked for the same reason, regardless of whether Peter Gilmore or I or anyone else approves of the person's particular brand of Satanism. Therefore, the question of how seriously such crimes are taken by the police should be the main concern here, for all Satanists. What we may think of Romano himself or his Satanism is irrelevant.

    Gilmore's mind seems stuck back in the days when, for example, a rape victim's sex life was considered germaine to the question of whether the alleged rapist was innocent or guilty. He talks as if Romano were the one on trial.

    To be fair to Gilmore, though, we don't know what else he might have said to the reporters. For all we know, he might have spent 90% of the interview time waxing euphoric about how pleased he was that the police are taking seriously a crime against a person perceived (rightly or wrongly) as a Satanist, but perhaps the reporters or editors didn't consider such statements to be newsworthy for whatever reason. As quoted, Gilmore comes across like a jerk - but let's remember that he may have been quoted out of context.

    Yesterday there was also a story on the NY1 site. It mentioned that the alleged attackers, Paul Rotondi and Frank Scarpinito, both 18 years old, "were arraigned on various charges Tuesday, including assault as a hate crime, harassment and weapons possession. They are due back in court January 31. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted."

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