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Catholic organizations call WSOU an 'abomination,' promise to continue protests

Dozens of unmasked protesters gathered outside the main entrance to Seton Hall’s South Orange campus Tuesday to protest music broadcast by the University’s radio station, WSOU.

The protesters from the ultra-conservative Catholic groups The Lepanto Institute and the American Society for Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) have called WSOU’s heavy metal music “satanic,” and have promised to “continue to increase the stakes” until the station is shut down.

The protesters chanted prayers on South Orange Avenue, holding signs with slogans reading “no Seton Hall satanism,” and “honk to protect our children.” 

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Nearly thirty protesters, almost all unmasked, protested outside the entrance to Seton Hall's main campus on Tuesday. (Dan O'Connor/News Editor)

The protesters declined interviews, with some saying the group prayer could not be interrupted.

Richard Smaglick, an activist who helped organize the protest, said he runs an anti-WSOU website that espouses some of the views held by the “many organizations” involved in the protest.

One organization, the Lepanto Institute, which organized protests against WSOU in the fall, describes itself on its website as an “organization dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church against assaults from without as well as from within.” The Institute campaigns against abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

TFP describes itself as "counter-revolutionary," and "an organization of lay Catholic Americans concerned about the moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization," and has been cited in articles from the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ views, calling the group "virulently anti-LGBT" in 2013. The TFP has embarked on campaigns in the past such as the “traditional marriage crusade" and "in defense of the unborn."

Smaglick said his study of satanic violence and white nationalism led him to protest WSOU.

“In those investigations it became increasingly apparent that WSOU, the radio station of a Catholic university, was playing one of the largest roles in advancing heavy metal music in America,” Smaglick said. “When a Catholic university is promoting satanism, there’s something profoundly wrong.”

Following last fall’s protests, WSOU’s advisory board convened a subcommittee of alumni and clergy to analyze the station’s content guidelines in the fall, according to University spokesperson Laurie Pine.

“Based on these findings the subcommittee and University developed programming modifications which will allow WSOU to more accurately and securely reflect its mission, goals and long-held operating procedures,” Pine said.

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Station leaders did not offer any comments on the protest when reached, instead directing questions to the University’s public relations office.

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Protesters held banners outside of WSOU's entrance in December. (@TCatholico/Twitter)

The organizations said they do not believe a station that broadcasts music “fundamentally opposed to Christianity” can be managed by a Catholic university, even with oversight.

Smaglick said that the organizations have informed Archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, as well as the Vatican about WSOU’s programming. Seton Hall is a diocesan university, which means that it, in part, falls under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Newark. 

“Cardinal Tobin has been informed of the hard facts on many occasions, going back to 2019,” Smaglick said. “The responses have been evasive, non-committal and totally ineffective.”

Protesters handed out fliers titled, “A station broadcasting sa*anic [sic] EVIL has NO PLACE on a Catholic campus.”

The fliers blamed WSOU’s broadcasting on former Archbishop of Newark Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019 after the Church found him guilty of sexual abuse.

“Seton Hall started broadcasting this sa*anic [sic] format in 1986, shortly after the appointment of serial homo-predator Theodore McCarrick, and continues airing this material from their radio station, 500 yards from the seminary from which McCarrick took his victims,” the flyer says, adding that the station "continues to air material that are recognized, even by the music industry and heavy metal press, as openly hostile to Christianity.”

Smaglick’s website also blamed McCarrick and the University for past misconduct and the airing of the allegedly satanic music.

“One would think Seton Hall University would have standards preventing the airing of satanism on its radio station,” Smaglick’s website says. “But this is a university where its seminarians were served up to Theodore McCarrick for sexual exploitation. Organizations capable of this level of corruption are generally dominated by influences that upend norms of moral behavior.”

The flier also claims that petitions to shut down WSOU have gained “well over 30,000” signatures. The petition linked on ShutDownWSOU.com had received only 831 signatures at the time of publication. Two other petitions, one from TFP’s student wing and another from TFP Vice President and board member John Horvat have obtained 17,300 and 16,300 signatures, respectively. 

“Through unyielding faith-filled prayer and action and reliance on Jesus Christ... we are advancing our mission to ensure with persistently increasing chastisement, pressure and publicity, that the Archdiocese of Newark [and] Cardinal Tobin accept public responsibility for this long standing abomination and end it by shutting down WSOU, completely and permanently,” the website says. “Our campaign will not end until WSOU is gone.”

Daniel O’Connor can be reached at daniel.oconnor1@student.shu.edu. Find him on Twitter @itsDanOConnor. 

Update, March 31: This story was updated to include an additional petition that was not previously mentioned from TFP Vice President and board member John Horvat. The story was also updated to include additional information about the TFP from the Southern Poverty Law Center and resolved a grammatical error on the paper's part in quoting a flyer.

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