Satanism just ‘an excuse’ for acts

Michael Sirois’ murder of two Christians he hated in 2004 was not likely the result of any satanic beliefs he held, a University of Waterloo professor said yesterday.

Lorne Dawson, a professor of sociology and religious studies, testified as an expert in Satanism at a hearing being held to determine whether Sirois, 29, should be held criminally responsible for the killings.

The hearing, at Kitchener’s Superior courthouse, has heard a great deal about Sirois’ Satanist beliefs. He called himself a Satanist and practised satanic rituals on an altar in his apartment.

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He said he believed the satanic bible gave him permission to kill anyone who had harmed him. He had a long list of people he wanted to hurt who had offended him in some way.

The list included his parents and members of a house church Sirois and his parents had attended years earlier.

Sirois fatally stabbed Verna Bast and Randy Penner, two church members, in their Glasgow Street home on Feb. 20, 2004.

The murders occurred just 19 days after Sirois went to Bast’s home and attacked Penner and another longtime boarder and church member, John Routley.

He blamed them for influencing his parents to raise him too strictly, saying this upbringing had ruined his life. He couldn’t watch television or go swimming or on sleepovers, he said.

The church members told him they had been upset at the way his parents raised him and had urged them to give him more freedoms.

A satanic bible and satanic writings and drawings, which police took from Sirois’s apartment after the murders, were presented in court.

The professor concluded Sirois was not a serious adherent of the religion.

“I think he’s a dabbler, someone who has his own psychological reasons for why these ideas intrigue him,” Dawson said outside court. “He already had the impulse, and Satanism provided a convenient excuse for acting on his desires.”

The hearing has heard that Sirois said he saw demons and was possessed by a demon. He sometimes feared them, believing they wanted to hurt him.

But Dawson agreed with Crown prosecutor Andre Rajna that Sirois probably just “cherry-picked” a number of different ideas from the satanic bible, popular culture and the Internet, and developed his own belief system.

Choosing Satanism was a “natural fit” for someone rebelling against a strict Christian upbringing, he said, since Satanism “was constructed to be the opposite world view.”

The church members practised a Pentecostal charismatic form of Christianity, which Dawson said includes a strong belief in demons and a struggle between good and evil, or God and the devil.

Legally recognized groups of Satanists don’t condone murder, Dawson said.

The professor based his conclusions partly on statements from witnesses at the hearing, such as two of Sirois’ former girlfriends, a statement Sirois gave police and psychiatric reports.

He also used the expertise of Douglas Cowan, a professor of religious studies at Renison College, who he said is a practising Satanist.

And he repeatedly quoted a “Satanist informant,” a UW graduate student and practising Satanist. Dawson picked the student’s brain for information on actual satanic practices. The student is doing his thesis on Satanism.

Dawson wouldn’t name the man, saying, “It would cause too much trouble in his life.”

The hearing is scheduled to run another three weeks. Sirois has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.

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