A devil-worshipping non-commissioned officer in the Royal Navy has become the first registered Satanist in the British Armed Forces.
Chris Cranmer, a naval technician serving on the Type 22 frigate Cumberland, has been officially recognised as a Satanist by the ship’s captain. That allows him to perform Satanic rituals aboard and permits him to have a funeral carried out by the Church of Satan should he be killed in action.
Ldg Hand Cranmer is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the Armed Forces so that Satanists can join up without “fear of marginalisation and the necessity to put up with Christian dogma”.
Mr Cranmer, who has been aboard the Cumberland’s tour of duty in the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf since April, said that being registered as a Satanist gave him “the freedom of religion I wanted despite its controversial nature”.
Satanists are encouraged to perform rituals in worship of the Devil, to fulfil their sexual desires and to change situations or events in accordance with their will. Ritual trappings can include a black robe, an altar, the symbol of Baphomet (Satan), candles, a bell, a sword, a gong and a model phallus.
Mr Cranmer, 24, is single and from Edinburgh. He has been in the Navy for four years and was promoted leading hand – the naval equivalent of corporal – in July last year. He told The Telegraph that he realised he was a Satanist nine years ago when he “stumbled across The Satanic Bible. I then read more and came to realise I’d always been a Satanist, just simply never knew.”
He added that he had been “warmly congratulated” by his friends and family for becoming the Armed Forces’ first Satanist but did not feel that the war in Iraq was “the Devil’s work”.
“From a military perspective, I believe in vengeance. I don’t consider Satan to be an intelligently external force in my life; instead I consider it an empowering internal force. If I were asked if I were evil, I would say yes – by virtue of the common definition. However, if you asked my family and friends you would hear a resounding ‘no’. I get a massive amount from my career, while sacrificing little.”
Mr Cranmer added: “Freedom to practise my religion irrespective of location was one of the most important factors. I didn’t want to feel I couldn’t get out my Satanic Bible and relax in bed. I didn’t want to bite my tongue any more when dealing with idiots.
“First, I can read what I want and express Satanic opinions without fear of prejudice. Second, I no longer have to attend religious ceremonial duties and am excused from all of them.
“Third, I will have a space provided for Satanic ritual practice – I’m not a habitual visitor to the [ritual] chamber, but to know that I have the facilities to use if need be is indeed a comfort. Fourth, I will not be subject to a denominational burial should I be killed in action. The Church of Satan will be contacted to provide a service, and if this is impossible, a non-denominational service will be performed.”
The Church of Satan was founded in San Francisco in 1966 by its high priest, Anton Szandor LaVey, author of The Stanic Bible. Adherents live by the Nine Satanic Statements, which include “Satan represents vengeance, instead of turning the other cheek”, “Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification”, and “Satan represents indulgence, instead of abstinence”.
To register as a Satanist, Mr Cranmer was required to make an initial submission to his divisional officer, who assessed any security implications. According to Rule Satannia, the official magazine of the Church of Satan to be launched on November 1, Mr Cranmer was then required to give a 30-minute presentation in June to the chaplain and senior officers on board, explaining the tenets of Satanism. The commanding officer, Capt Russell Best, granted his request a month later.
Unlike members of the Army and Air Force, recruits to the Navy do not have to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen as head of the Armed Forces.
The arrival of the Navy’s first Satanist shocked veterans. Admiral Sir Sandy Woodward, the former Commander of the South Atlantic Task Groups in the Falklands War and a Flag Aide-de-Camp to the Queen in 1989, said that Satanism would be “terribly undesirable” on a ship.
“My immediate reaction is ‘Good God, what the hell’s going on?’ ” he said. “When I was serving, you were either Church of England or Roman Catholic, but I never heard of any Satanists. This sounds pretty daft to me.”
A spokesman for the Royal Navy insisted that Mr Cranmer’s unconventional beliefs would not cause problems on board ship. “We are an equal opportunities employer and we don’t stop anybody from having their own religious values,” he said.
He added: “Chris Cranmer approached his captain and made a request to be registered as a Satanist. This involved a formal stand-up approach, made in front of an audience, saying that he wanted to register as a Satanist and to practise his religious beliefs.
“The Royal Navy allows this kind of approach because it is clearly in line with current regulations. We are not aware of any other individuals who want to be registered as Satanists.
“Our policy is that, wherever practical, reasonable requests for time and facilities that do not impact on operational effectiveness or the welfare of other personnel, are met. The captain said that this decision was entirely up to the individual and that he is a good lad, a good worker on board. Nobody is suggesting there is anything at all dark about this.”