A Chelsea man was arrested after he allegedly set fire to the Satanic Temple in Salem late Friday night, forcing its occupants to evacuate, officials said.
Daniel Lucey, 42, faces charges of arson, interfering with civil rights, and destruction to a place of worship, Salem Police Chief Lucas J. Miller said in a statement on Saturday.
Lucey remains in custody, according to the statement.
Lucey told police he traveled to Salem to set the temple on fire and said he considered his actions “a hate crime,” Miller said.
Security camera photos posted to Twitter by The Satanic Temple’s cofounder, Lucien Greaves, show a man in a grey T-shirt emblazoned with the word “God” approach the front door of the building.
Security footage shows the man allegedly lighting the steps of the porch on fire before lighting an area in front of the door, Greaves said in a telephone interview on Saturday morning. The man then took a walk around the block before returning to watch the flames, Greaves said.
He was arrested upon the arrival of the Salem police.
The fire was called in at 10:05 p.m., Miller said. The Salem Fire Department responded in about three minutes and had the fire under control roughly two minutes later, Salem fire Captain Ben Potvin said in a telephone interview Saturday morning.
The building was occupied at the time, but everyone was evacuated and there were no injuries, Miller said.
The damage was limited to the temple’s porch area, Potvin said. A gelatin-like accelerant, which has not be identified, was used to start the fire, he said.
The porch and windows near it will likely need to be replaced. It’s unclear whether the front door and walls will need to be repaired, Greaves said.
The temple building was originally built around the turn of the 20th century, he said.
Greaves said he and the temple frequently receive threats via e-mail or online.
“People often ask if they’re credible threats, and the fact of the matter is that you just don’t know until somebody shows up,” he said. “I’m always, somewhere in the back of my mind, concerned about this.”
Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll denounced the “awful” incident in a statement.
“On behalf of the City of Salem, we condemn this hateful attack,” she said. “Salem is a welcoming place, and the actions of this individual are not reflective of who we are or our values as a community.”
The Satanic Temple, which was founded in 2013 and officially recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a church in 2019, is unaffiliated, but often confused with the Church of Satan. The Satanic Temple is “resolutely non-theistic” and does not believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural, but views Satan as “a symbol of the Eternal Rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority,” according to its website.
The Salem location is one of several temple chapters nationwide, according to its website. In recent years, the temple has made headlines for a number of religious freedom issues.
Early this year, the temple petitioned to the Boston City Council to fly its flag at City Hall after the Supreme Court ruled the council’s decision to bar a Christian group’s flag was unconstitutional. Last year, the temple said a Texas law allowing anyone to sue those helping perform abortions was a violation of its members’ religious freedom as they use abortion medication in a “sacramental setting.”
Greaves commended the Salem police and fire departments for their quick response and said he and the temple have received an outpouring of support from Salem and elsewhere, including other faith leaders.
“The ultimate effect is to make us stronger as a community rather than weaker, so I think that’s probably the unintended consequence of this man’s actions,” he said.