Florida resident Swati Runi Goyal was awaiting takeoff aboard an American Airlines flight to Las Vegas on the day before Halloween, when an airline employee approached her and demanded that she immediately changed out of a shirt proclaiming ‘Hail Satan’, otherwise threatening to remove her from the flight over the shirt’s ‘offensive’ message.
In addition to its salute to Satan, the shirt also featured an inverted cross and the words ‘Est. 666’, which the airline employee interpreted as breaking the company’s policy banning ‘offensive clothing.’
“The gentleman asked me if I understood what ‘offensive’ meant,” Goyal said. “I said, ‘I’m a foreign-born minority woman. I know what my T-shirt means and my T-shirt is not offensive.’”
Faced with the choice of changing the shirt or being booted from her flight, which had already been delayed by the dispute, Goyal ultimately gave in, but she insists she was the victim of discrimination.
“I’m really trying to make some good deeds come out of this. This is really about religious discrimination,” she said. “Because they treated me this way, I can only imagine how they’re treating other religious groups like Muslims.”
Goyal, who says she is both an atheist and an active supporter of the Satanic Temple, decided to share her experience online on Friday after American Airlines “failed to investigate” the encounter, despite her filing a complaint. The airline changed its tune, however, after the story was first reported by Buzzfeed, reaching out to Goyal with an apology on Twitter.
“Discrimination has no place at American Airlines. Please meet us in DMs with your record locator and contact info,” the company said in a tweet, adding: “We’ll take a closer look at this and get back in touch.” Goyal has since set her Twitter account to private in response to outrage from conservatives, who she said “are not happy.”
With its name in the headlines, the Satanic Temple did not miss out on the marketing opportunity, advertising its unholy merch while it had Twitter’s attention, even sliding into American Airlines’ mentions.
Outraged by the treatment of their fellow worshiper, followers of the Temple came out in force online to condemn the incident, some encouraging Goyal to sue the airline for religious intolerance.
“Wow! Are they asking people to take off their crucifix jewelry too?” a surprised user asked, pointing to potential double standards in the airlines’ policies.