In this October 24, 2016 photo, Lucien Greaves stands inside the recently opened international headquarters of the Satanic Temple. Picture: Elise Amendola

Salem, Massachusetts - The Satanic Temple is waging religious battles along a variety of fronts nationwide, and its co-founder says it's just getting started.

The three-year-old organisation is fighting to get a nearly 9-foot statue (2,7m) of the goat-headed idol Baphomet placed outside the Arkansas state capitol.

Members have also proposed "After School Satan" clubs in elementary schools from Oregon to Georgia.

And they're pushing city councils from Massachusetts to California to allow Satanists to give the opening prayer at public meetings - just as Christian, Jewish and other religious clerics have long done.

The Associated Press caught up with Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves as the organisation settles into its new international headquarters in a former funeral parlour in Salem, the city north of Boston infamous for its 17th-century witch trials.

The organisation claims about 20 chapters and 50,000 members worldwide, including outposts in Britain, Finland, Italy and the Netherlands.

Greaves' comments have been edited for clarity and length.

AP: You've got some pretty serious security on this place. How's the reception in town been?

Greaves: You know, I was foreseeing a lot of pushback, and that really didn't happen, and I'm really happy about that. You should have seen the reaction when we unveiled the Baphomet monument in Detroit last year. There were death threats, protests - just a whole lot of ugliness. So the opening here was kind of low-key. We didn't really make an event of it.

AP: For those who don't know, what's the Satanic Temple all about?

Greaves: The Satanic Temple has seven tenets that describe our belief system. Personal autonomy, freedom of belief, scientific rationalism - those are really the core of the tenets. They say very little about Satan or why you would identify as a Satanist. ...The tenets are meant to be universal.

AP: So are you Satan worshippers?

Greaves: Definitely not. In fact, the idea of "worship" is antithetical to our anti-authoritarian philosophy. Devil worship implies a theistic point of view. We consider ourselves a non-theistic religious organisation.

AP: Is the Satanic Temple a legally recognised religion? And does that affect your legal standing in court battles if not?

Greaves: We are incorporated as a religious organisation, though we're a company rather than a tax-exempt religious non-profit. If, by some circumstance, we find our religious legitimacy denied by a public agency for the fact that we've never sought IRS-recognised religious exemption, I have little doubt that the courts would rule in our favour. ... We feel that it's our sense of cultural identity, narrative and shared ethics that make us a religion.

AP: How are you different from other Satanist groups?

Greaves: We're actually active and relevant today. (Other groups) will say they stand for certain things and stand against certain things, but those words ring hollow if there isn't some commensurate activity attached to it. ... What matters to us is self-identified Satanists standing up and saying they have a place in the world so that the evangelical theocrats don't have a monopoly over what constitutes religious freedom.

AP: The Portland, Oregon chapter of the Satanic Temple is planning an open house for an "After School Satan" club in a Portland elementary school sometime next month. What can students, teachers and parents expect?

Greaves: We're not interested in turning kids away from their Christian background. We really want this to be enriching. We're not going to proselytise or make ham-fisted religious tirades. Our curriculum does not contain items of religious opinion. It contains fun activities premised on critical thinking, reasoning skills and the scientific, rationalist view of the world.

AP: Doesn't sound very Satanic. Why call it an "After School Satan" club at all?

Greaves: I'd say it sends a positive message that it's called the "After School Satan" club and that it's run by people who self-identify as Satanists. It's helpful for children to see that people can hold diametrically opposed religious points of view, but still be good, productive members of society, be non-criminal and friendly.

AP: What else is on the horizon for the Satanic Temple?

Greaves: We're trying not to spread ourselves too thin. There's a huge demand for starting chapters. We're doing the best we can to keep up with the interest without letting it get completely unmanageable. It's a balancing act. ... Hopefully, it'll get to the point where I feel I can write a book about what we're doing and why we're doing it - the things everybody always asks about.

AP