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Posted on Friday, October 29 - 2004

Some say the De’ils deid and living in Kirkcaldy, as the old ditty goes, though, as we now know, he is in fact alive and well and serving on Her Majesty’s frigate Cumberland. Or at least one of his minions appears to be. The nation spluttered over its cornflakes earlier this week and wondered if Hallowe’en japes had arrived early, on reading that Leading Hand Chris Cranmer, a Scots naval technician and self-professed member of the Church of Satan, had been given permission by his captain to practise as a Satanist, making him the first officially sanctioned Satanistin the armed forces.

The decision by Captain Russell Best of the Cumberland means, among other things, that the 24-year-old Cranmer, from Kirkliston in West Lothian, may worship in robes before an altar and, if killed in action or otherwise at sea, may be given an appropriate funeral, whatever that may be. Well, look out Osama. Most of us may be excused for wondering whether the world is descending into gibbering, dark-age lunacy. New-ageism run riot, "political correctness gone mad"... or should we be more basically concerned that someone who espouses a religion or philosophy which appears to reject moral values is entrusted as part of a team controlling a fightingship? Despite some recent high-profile crimes linked to satanism in recent years, no-one thinks that Leading Hand Cranmer is going to eat our children - his discomfited mother has assured the press he was brought up a Christian and "doesn’t have an evil bone in his body" - but what exactly is the Church of Satan, and how will his adherence to it affect him - and, more importantly, his shipmates?

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