What does the fourth tenet mean?

The fourth of the Seven Tenets is:

Tenet 4: The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.

As with all of the tenets, the fourth tenet is not a “commandment” nor is it rule to be forced on other people. The tenets are fundamental ethical principles that we strive to embody in our own thoughts and actions. Satanists interpret and apply the tenets differently. It is fundamentally unsatanic to use any tenet either to rationalize a decision or to try to coerce or manipulate the behaviors of others. For more general discussion of the Seven Tenets and their role in the religious beliefs of The Satanic Temple, see: What are the seven tenets?

One of the most common misunderstandings of Tenet IV is the belief that it grants Satanists moral “permission” to say and do offensive things. We sometimes see people lash out, saying something deliberately to upset and offend others, and then hide behind the Fourth Tenet by saying, “I have the freedom to offend!”

The subject of the first sentence of this tenet is not your freedom, it is the freedoms of others. This tenet is not giving you permission to offend others; this tenet is reminding you that they have permission to offend you. The second sentence goes on to remind you that it is unethical to willfully and unjustly limit their behavior simply because you do not want to feel offended.

A question that strikes closer to the heart of this tenet is: When is it just to encroach on the freedoms of others? Which freedoms, and what methods of encroachment, specifically are on the table?

This is an incredibly complex question with far-reaching implications for civil rights, class struggle, the legitimacy of governments, the legitimacy of protest, freedom of speech, and a myriad of other social and political issues. You are likely to find as many opinions on this topic as there are Satanists. The complex way that the Fourth Tenet relates to a wide variety of real-world issues illustrates the importance of evaluating the world with all of the Seven Tenets together, rather than using any one tenet in isolation.


These are some services from the Satanic Ministry Archives that specifically explore topics related to Tenet 4:

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