Royal Navy to allow devil worship
LONDON, England (CNN) -- A devil-worshipping sailor in the Royal Navy has become the first registered Satanist in the British Armed Forces.
Chris Cranmer, 24, a technician serving on the Type 22 frigate Cumberland, has been officially recognized as a Satanist by the ship's captain.
That allows him to perform satanic rituals aboard and permits him to have a non-Christian Church of Satan funeral should he be killed in action.
A spokesman for Britain's Ministry of Defence told CNN Sunday that it had a duty to allow members of the forces to practice their religion.
He added that the MoD was an "equal opportunities employer" which did not stop anyone having their own religious values.
"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."
Cranmer, 24, who comes from Edinburgh, Scotland, is now lobbying the Ministry of Defence to make Satanism a registered religion in the Armed Forces, says Britain's Sunday Telegraph.
He says he wants Satanists to be able to join the military without "fear of marginalisation and the necessity to put up with Christian dogma."
The defense ministry told CNN that Cranmer went to his commanding officer with a request to practice his beliefs on board his ship and, after consultation with the ship's chaplain, this was granted.
The decision was at the discretion of the captain, the MoD, said, and was on the basis that it did not impinge on the operational effectiveness, safety or security of the ship, or the well-being of colleagues.
Tour of duty
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".
Cranmer, who is single, has been in the Royal Navy for four years and was promoted leading hand -- the naval equivalent of corporal -- in July last year.
He told the newspaper that he realized he was a Satanist nine years ago when he "stumbled across" The Satanic Bible by American 'Black Pope' Anton Szandor LaVey. "I then read more and came to realize 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."
The Church of Satan was established in San Francisco in 1966 and LaVey was its high priest until his death in 1997.
Members of the church, which rejects Christian ideas of God and the Devil, follow 11 "Satanic Rules of the Earth."
The belief system has been condemned as a cult by some religious groups and at least one opposition politician expressed dismay after Cranmer won permission to practice Satanism aboard a Royal Navy ship.
"I am utterly shocked by this," Conservative parliamentarian Anne Widdecombe told Reuters.
"Satanism is wrong. Obviously the private beliefs of individuals anywhere including the armed forces are their own affair but I hope it doesn't spread," she said.